Thailand opens to outsiders, EMA eyes drug

·3-min read

Thailand plans to no longer require vaccinated visitors from at least 10 countries to quarantine while the European Medicines Agency is examining the approval of another coronavirus drug.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Monday said the first group would include arrivals from the United Kingdom, Singapore, Germany, China and the United States starting next month.

The list would be expanded on December 1 and then made even more extensive on January 1, he said.

Thailand's economy has been badly hurt by the losses suffered by its huge tourism industry after most foreign visitors were barred in April last year.

That policy has eased but all arrivals still faced onerous quarantine requirements.

Even now, Bangkok and other areas have a 10pm to 4am curfew and other restrictions to try to tame a virulent third wave of the coronavirus that began in April this year.

"The time has come for us to ready ourselves to face the coronavirus and live with it as with other endemic infections and diseases, much as we have learnt to live with other diseases with treatments and vaccinations," Prayuth said.

He said he has instructed the government's Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration and the Public Health Ministry to urgently consider the plan by the end of the week.

The center will also finalise which countries will be on the no-quarantine list.

All visitors will still need to show negative RT-PCR test results before embarking for Thailand and will require another test on arrival, after which they will be free to travel around Thailand.

Visitors from other countries will still have to quarantine and meet other requirements.

Prayuth said the authorities will also consider allowing the consumption of alcohol beverages in restaurants as well as the operation of entertainment venues from December 1 to support the revitalisation of the tourism and leisure sectors during New Year's celebrations.

"We will have to track the situation very carefully, and see how to contain and live with that situation because I do not think that the many millions who depend on the income generated by the travel, leisure and entertainment sector can possibly afford the devastating blow of a second lost New Year holiday period," he said.

Thailand tested the waters by reopening the popular resort province of Phuket in July to fully vaccinated visitors without quarantine, allowing them free movement on the island for 14 days and then onward travel throughout the country.

Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency said on Monday that the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche had submitted an application for approval of its antibody therapy Ronapreve.

The drug, which consists of two active ingredients - casirivimab and imdevimab - and was co-produced by the US manufacturer Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, is intended to treat people aged 12 and over who are infected with the coronavirus and have a high risk of a severe infection.

In addition, according to the manufacturers, the drug can also be used in people who have an acute risk of infection, for example because they live in a household with an infected person.

Only recently, the World Health Organisation recommended the cocktail of casirivimab and imdevimab for the prevention of severe COVID-19 infection in at-risk patients.

In Germany, this antibody combination is already used in special cases for coronavirus patients.

The EMA experts are now evaluating all the data presented and weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of the preparation.

A result is expected in two months.

So far, only the drug remdesivir has been approved in the EU as a special coronavirus drug.

At present, approval procedures are under way for a total of five preparations.

with DPA

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