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Low-Cost COVID-19 Test Kit Developed for Special Tourist Visa Tourists

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Thailand’s Department of Medical Sciences (DMS) has unveiled a 90% accurate COVID-19 test kit that can be produced for only hundreds of baht per set, to be used with Special Tourist Visa (STV) visitors.

Interim Director-General of DMS Dr. Supakij Sirilak explained that after successfully decoding COVID-19 DNA, through collaboration with researchers in China, the department is now able to produce Real-Time RT-PCR kits, testing apparatus for the coronavirus accepted by the World Health Organization.

The kits are Thailand’s first to identify both IgM and IgG anti-bodies of SARS-CoV-2. They use immunochromatography to test plasma and blood from a patient’s fingertip and have an accuracy rate of 90%. They are currently pending registration with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and will be used with 60,000 Thais once processed to discern the country’s risk level, NNT Reports.

The technology is to be passed on to the private sector to reduce capital cost to only slightly above 100 baht per kit, as imported kits cost 300-500 baht per unit. They are to be particularly crucial once state mandated quarantine is reduced from 14 to 10 days and should benefit STV tourists.

The development is a breakthrough by the 1-Lab-1-Province 100 Laboratories program, which has validated 236 labs across the nation, 157 operated by the state and 79 by the private sector.

DMS has also created a test kit for COVID-19 contamination on product packaging and food sets to be used on imported fruit and vegetables.

Health authority explains shortened quarantine

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health has proposed a reduction in the number of quarantine days from 14 to 10 for persons arriving from lower risk countries. The Ministry says more knowledge of COVID-19 has enabled this shortened quarantine, however persons given this shortened quarantine option will continue to be tracked until the 14th day after their arrival.

Dr Sopon Iamsirithaworn, Director of the Division of Communicable Diseases of the Department of Disease Control (DDC) has elaborated on the effectiveness of 14-day and 10-day quarantine, saying they are no different, provided that the isolation and quarantine processes is properly managed.

He said the new 10-day duration of quarantine was arrived at after consideration of the most common duration of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms at 5-7 days, meaning that most people will start showing symptoms about a week after contracting the virus, while most people who test positive to the virus after 10 days are mostly asymptomatic, and carry a lower chance of spreading the virus to other people.

Dr Sopon has reassured the public that the option of a 10-day quarantine will only be available to travelers from lower-risk countries, most of which are in the ASEAN region. These Special Tourist Visa travellers will still be subject to pre-departure screening processes in the country of origin, with only people who test negative with a COVID-19 test kit being allowed to travel.

Special Tourist Visa Travelers will then be tested for the virus at the airport on arrival, and immediately taken into quarantine, during which they will be swab-tested again on the 3rd, 5th, and 9th day, plus two blood tests to detect antibodies against the virus. All of these tests must return negative for a person to complete quarantine after 10 days.

Travelers who have cleared the 10-day quarantine must strictly observe personal protective measures for the following 11-14 days after arrival to reduce infection risks. Health authorities may also keep track of their whereabouts using an application or tracking wristband. They also may be required to visit local health facilitates where a COVID-19 test kit can be used to check them while touring Thailand.

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