Authorities are trying to track down more than 1,000 Thais and foreigners who recently entered the country from Africa who they fear could be infected with the coronavirus omicron variant.
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration said Thursday it was trying to contact 252 Thais returned from Africa Nov. 15-27 to report to a hospital to take another RT-PCR test. As of Wednesday, only 23 had been reached, said CCSA Spokesman Thaweesin Visanuyothin.
If they receive SMSs sent to inform them about the public-health measures for arrivals from Africa but they don’t cooperate, they could face prosecution for violating Thailand’s disease-control law, he threatened.
The Immigration Bureau, meanwhile, said it is looking for 783 foreigners who also came to Thailand during the same period, even though the total arrival numbers from the continent don’t match that high number.
The bureau appears to be playing fast and loose with the numbers and, by singling out “Africans” stoked racial panic. Clearly there were more than only African natives on those flights. But both the Thai media and government love to demonize Africa’s Black-majority population.
According to the CCSA, from Nov. 15-27, there were 333 arrivals from eight southern African countries that have been subsequently banned from entering Thailand. The countries are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The Department of Disease Control assessed symptoms of Omicron infection, which were similar to those of other strains but the Omicron variant could be more transmissible. However, Covid-19 vaccination can reduce the risk of severe disease, so people should get vaccinated, he said. In the latest development, Omicron variant was found in more countries including the United States, Portugal, Austria, Sweden, Spain and Japan. Most infections were found among returnees from southern African countries.