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Israeli Sends Thailand into ‘Omicron OhMyGod’ Panic, But Likely Was Harmless

Ohad Baruch, 29, surrenders to police at his Koh Samui guesthouse Wednesday. (Photo: Supapong Chaolan)
Ohad Baruch, 29, surrenders to police at his Koh Samui guesthouse Wednesday. (Photo: Supapong Chaolan)

An Israeli tourist accused of spreading the coronavirus omicron variant from Bangkok to Pattaya to Koh Samui may not have the virus at all or, if he did, likely couldn’t transmit it.

Thailand went into full “omicron oh my God” panic Wednesday when news emerged that Ohad Baruch, 29, had left his Sukhumvit-area hotel before results of his on-arrival Covid-19 test came back. And they came back positive.

The Department of Medical Sciences said Thursday that the on-arrival test and more samples taken from Baruch’s hotel room were sequenced and showed he was infected with the omicron variant.

But two tests taken at two separate hospitals on Koh Samui after he surrendered to police Wednesday afternoon came back negative. The DMS, insistent he’s got omicron, is testing all the samples again until they get the result that fits their narrative.

Even if the Israeli did have omicron, it seems he wasn’t a modern Typhoid Mary, spreading the most-contagious coronavirus variant yet throughout the country. DMS Secretary-General Supakit Sirilak said Thursday that Baruch has basically recovered from Covid-19 and the level of virus in his body was so low it was unlikely he could transmit the disease to others.

One person who will be glad to hear that is Nit Kaosaeng, the taxi driver who took Baruch from the Emporium shopping mall in Bangkok’s Phrom Phong area to Pattaya on Dec. 18 after he’d skipped out on the hotel where he’d checked in the night before.

Baruch didn’t end up staying in Sin City, however, as, cognizant of what he did, the Israeli wouldn’t give the hotel his passport. They refused to take him.

So Baruch jumped back in a cab to Bangkok where he the next day he arranged a van ride to Chumphon, where he got the ferry to Koh Samui. During his two days on the island his Bangkok escape became public and, early Wednesday, Baruch contacted the Israeli embassy.

The embassy told him to surrender, which he did the Bangrak Pier Guesthouse where was staying.

Baruch was then given RT-PCR tests at Bangkok Hospital Samui and Koh Samui Hospital, both of which came back negative. Supakit said the reason was likely due to the low viral load in the body. But the samples were sent to the Regional Medical Sciences Center of Surat Thani where omicron will be found, he vowed.

Despite having recovered, Baruch was remanded for 10 days to a quarantine hotel where staff will be paying closer attention to his whereabouts.

Hopefully, Baruch enjoyed his short holiday, because of the of his time in Thailand will not be enjoyable.

After his 10-day quarantine is done, he’ll be sent to the Thonglor Police Station where an arrest warrant awaits. He’s been charged with failing to abide by disease-control measures in violation of the Emergency Decree, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a 40,000-baht fine; and being a foreign national who failed to stay where he was supposed to, which carries a fine of up to 5,000 baht.