Thailand has detected the first local cases of the coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa, a group of scientists said on Saturday, saying the finding should prompt vaccination efforts to be ramped up.
The South African variant, known as B.1.351, carries mutations that threaten the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, several studies have shown.
In Thailand, the variant was identified in three test samples from a cluster of infections that could be linked to illegal migration in the south of the country, the Covid-19 Network Investigations Alliance said in a report.
“The variant may impact human immunity response from the virus and reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine,” said the alliance, which conducts genomics surveillance and research and has worked closely with the government during the pandemic.
“This does not mean that the vaccines do not work but there must be an increase in the ratio of population receiving the vaccine,” the report said.
Thai health authorities did not immediately comment on the scientists’ findings.
Thailand detected the South African variant on February 15 in a Thai man who had travelled from Tanzania and was put under the mandatory quarantine upon arrival.
But the discovery of a domestic transmission of the variant could complicate the country’s efforts to tackle its worst Covid-19 outbreak so far.
The country reported 3 052 new cases and 24 more deaths on Saturday, bringing the total to 126 118 cases and 759 fatalities since the pandemic started last year.