South African COVID-19 variant found in Thailand amid quarantine

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Thailand reported 143 new coronavirus infections on Monday and in quarantine detected its first case of the highly contagious COVID-19 variant first found in South Africa, its coronavirus taskforce said.

Two new deaths were reported, taking fatalities to 82, with overall cases at 24,714, the majority of which have come in the past two months.

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The South African variant was found in a Thai man who had travelled from Tanzania and was undergoing the mandatory quarantine for all arrivals from abroad, the taskforce said at a briefing.

South Africa halted the planned rollout last week of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, which Thailand will use for its mass immunization program, after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection.

South African scientists say there is no clear evidence the variant is associated with more severe disease or worse outcomes, but say it spreads faster.

A World Health Organization panel last week said that AstraZeneca’s vaccine should be deployed widely, however, including in countries where the South African variant may reduce its efficacy.

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