14 infected with Omicron 'stealth' subvariant in Thailand, one dies

Omicron is now the dominant variant in Thailand, accounting for 94.6 per cent of patients. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Fourteen people in Thailand have been infected with the Omicron subvariant BA.2, with one dying, Department of Medical Sciences director-general Supphakit Siriluck reported on Wednesday (Jan 26).

Omicron BA.2 has been nicknamed the "stealth variant" due to difficulties in comparing it with the Delta variant using the polymerase chain reaction method.

BA.2 is spreading rapidly in around 40 countries, including Singapore, India, Denmark, Sweden and Britain.

"The Omicron variant that has been found in Thailand since Dec 6 last year is the BA.1 variant that has mutations in the K417N, T478K, N501Y and del69/70 positions from the original Covid-19 virus," Dr Supphakit explained.

"About three weeks after it was first discovered among foreign travellers, the BA.1 variant has spread quickly throughout a number of countries, with several clusters reported in populated and tourism areas," he said.

"The Omicron BA.2 subvariant was first found in Thailand on Jan 2. Since then, 14 patients have been reported to have contracted it," Dr Supphakit said, adding that Omicron BA.3 "has yet to be discovered in Thailand".

Dr Supphakit said that so far, there was no evidence BA.2 was different from BA.1 in terms of transmissibility, the potential for a patient to develop severe symptoms, or the ability to evade immunity created after recovering from Covid-19 or by receiving a vaccine.

"Apart from being hard to differentiate from Delta variants with (reverse transcription PCR) testing, the BA.2 subvariant is different from BA.1 and BA.3, meaning that it does not show any mutation in the positions 69-70 of the spike protein," he added.

So far, seven people in Thailand infected with the Omicron variant have died, bringing the fatality rate of Omicron in the country to 0.1 per cent. Omicron is now the dominant variant in Thailand, accounting for 94.6 per cent of patients. The Delta variant accounts for 5.4 per cent.

The Omicron variant accounts for virtually all imported cases, with Delta making up the remaining 0.6 per cent. Domestically, 92.3 per cent of the cases are of the Omicron variant, with the remaining 7.7 per cent attributed to the Delta variant.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.