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PM Srettha Tests Positive for Covid Amid Political Turmoil

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has tested positive for Covid-19 and is advised to rest until Wednesday, June 19. The diagnosis, confirmed by the Prime Minister’s Office late last night, comes as Srettha has been feeling unwell since Friday, June 14.

Chai Watcharong, the spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office, stated that Srettha consulted a doctor who confirmed the Covid-19 infection. The physician has recommended rest and isolation to prevent further spread of the virus. Srettha expressed regret over any possible exposure to those he has met and urged them to undergo testing if they exhibit symptoms.

Coincidentally, Srettha faces a crucial court ruling on Tuesday, June 18, regarding an impeachment lawsuit filed by 40 senators. The Constitutional Court might order his suspension, which could prevent him from addressing the House of Representatives on the 3.75 trillion baht 2025 budget legislation scheduled for the following Wednesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai may serve as acting prime minister if the court orders Srettha’s suspension. Known as a close associate of Pheu Thai boss Thaksin Shinawatra, Phumtham may also have to address the House on the 2025 budget bill if Srettha remains indisposed.

The impeachment case alleges that Srettha violated the constitution and ethical standards by appointing Pichit Chuenban, a former lawyer for Thaksin, as a minister. Chuenban, sentenced to jail in the past for attempted bribery and contempt of court, has since resigned under pressure.

The Constitutional Court is also deliberating two other significant cases on June 18. One involves the potential dissolution of the Move Forward party for allegedly undermining national rule by advocating changes to the lese majeste law, Section 112 of the Criminal Code. The other case questions the constitutionality of the triple-tiered election of 200 senators nationwide.

Amid these political tensions, Thailand is witnessing a swift rise in cases of the Covid-19 KP.2 sub-variant, a mutation overtaking the previously prevalent JN.1 strain. Dr. Yong Poovorawan, leading the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University, highlighted the situation on his Facebook page earlier today.

“The KP.2 sub-variant, also known as FLi RT, is outcompeting the JN.1 strain, which had been dominant since late last year. While the current vaccines developed against the XBB.1.5 strain show limited effectiveness against this new mutation, it’s crucial not to panic,” Dr. Yong commented.

Background checks reveal that KP.2, a mutation sprouting from JN.1, is more transmissible and shows an enhanced ability to evade immune responses. Despite these changes, the severity of symptoms remains comparable to previously circulating variants.

What’s causing concern among medical professionals is the rapid pace at which KP.2 is spreading. Dr. Yong predicts it will become the dominant variant in the country shortly. “The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already asked vaccine manufacturers to adapt their formulations to tackle the JN.1 variant. However, the virus has swiftly mutated to KP.2, making it challenging for vaccine developers to keep up,” he noted.

This rapid evolution underscores the agility of the coronavirus and the ongoing challenge for vaccine developers to adapt. The KP.2 sub-variant’s ability to bypass immunity highlights the pressing need for continuous surveillance and agile vaccine development.

As health authorities race to adjust their strategies, the public is advised to maintain standard precautions – wearing masks, practising physical distancing, and observing good hygiene. The coming days will be crucial as experts monitor the variant’s impact and strategize measures to contain its spread effectively.

In light of the ongoing developments, several officials and stakeholders are closely monitoring the situation. Among them are key figures from the Prime Minister’s Office, public health authorities, and legal experts involved in the Constitutional Court cases. Their collective efforts aim to navigate both the health crisis and the political challenges facing the nation.

Stay tuned for further updates and expert insights into this evolving situation.

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