Although the symptoms of COVID-19 can vary slightly from person to person, some of the symptoms are far more common. These include a raised temperature, a dry and persistent cough along with loss of taste and/or smell. Other widely reported signs include fatigue, sore throat, diarrhoea and muscle aches. However, many sufferers are regarded as being asymptomatic, meaning that they don’t display any symptoms.
If you have any concerns that you may have COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has the virus, you should immediately take a coronavirus test.
What is the process for a COVID-19 test?
If you are displaying symptoms or have been in close contact with someone with the virus, you should always phone the hospital first to seek their advice. However, if you wish to take a test for travel, work or insurance purposes, and you have no reason to suspect that you have the virus most hospitals offer the test on a walk-in basis. Prices start at around THB 3,500 for the COVID-19 PCR test method – the test recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
When you are called for your test, you can be expected to be met by someone wearing a full hazmat suit for their protection, and they will usually be behind a Perspex screen. They will ask you to confirm your name and date of birth then they will apply a swab to each nostril and then take a swab from the back of the throat, around the tonsil area. Although you may feel some minor discomfort, you will be able to resume normal activities immediately after assuming you are not suspected of having the virus.
Results are usually available after 24 hours although if there is excess demand, it may take as long as 72 hours. Most people are notified by email or SMS, although you can receive a hospital certificate, which is normally at an additional cost. A negative result will be reported as “not detected” on your medical certificate. The wording can be confusing, but this the global method from which results are reported. Should you return a positive or “inconclusive” test result, the hospital will contact you immediately and advise you of the next steps to be taken.
Do I need to self-isolate?
You should self-isolate if you suspect that you have the virus or been in contact with someone who has before taking the test. In Thailand, you will be admitted to a medical facility if you return a positive result and remain there until you produce a “not detected” result. Unlike in some countries, you will not be allowed to self-isolate at home.
In December 2020, the United Kingdom became the first country to start a mass vaccination program with several other countries following suit shortly after. There are currently (at time of writing) three vaccines that have been authorised for use in Thailand that have been authorised for use around the world which are from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Thailand has signed an agreement with Oxford-AstraZeneca to supply 26 million doses but is in talks with the other leading producers along with manufacturers in China, Russia and India.
How is the vaccine administered?
The current vaccines are administered via an injection which requires two doses. The second dose is given between four and twelve weeks after the first. The first vaccine is thought to give around 90% of the full immunity after approximately four weeks. During this initial period, your levels of immunity will increase as the body naturally produces more antibodies. A small proportion of people have suffered more severe side effects, and anyone carrying an EpiPen should not have the vaccine.
How effective is the vaccine?
The vaccine’s effectiveness appears to vary, but the consensus is that they are over 90% effective after the second dose. However, some reports do suggest that some only offer protection to 70% of people. The vaccine has also been proven to effective against current variants or mutations of the original virus, although this cannot be guaranteed for future mutations. It is also unclear whether the vaccine will need to be given annually, if boosters will be required periodically, or if the initial two injections will be sufficient.
As the vaccine was rolled out in record time and this form of coronavirus is new, there are still some unanswered questions. Nevertheless the current vaccines have deemed safe by all the major health regulators around the world.
How much will the vaccine cost?
No definitive answer has been given about how much the vaccine will cost to patients in Thailand. However, the Pfizer vaccine is believed to cost around $19 to produce each dose, the Moderna costs between $32 and $39 while the AstraZeneca one is thought to be around $4. Previously, a hospital in Bangkok had an option to pre-book the vaccine and offered both doses to patients for THB 10,000. As the vaccine is not yet available, and the government felt that this was unethical, the hospital in question was forced to withdraw the offer.