BANGKOK: Thailand’s government on Thursday (Dec 24) said it is confident it can contain a major COVID-19 resurgence without a national lockdown, instead relying on provincial controls as the outbreak mainly among migrant workers continues to spread.
“I can assure that the government will do its best,” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said in a live televised address after a meeting of the government’s COVID-19 coordinating centre. “The Public Health Ministry confirms to me that it is controllable if everyone gives cooperation.”
Thailand generally has been seen as successful in combating the coronavirus due partly to its well-regarded public health infrastructure and people’s adherence to mask-wearing and other protocols.
A guard with a face shield stands near a shrimp market in Samut Sakhon, south of Bangkok, on Dec 20, 2020. (Photo: AP/ Jerry Harmer)
But cases have jumped significantly since an outbreak was detected last week among migrants from Myanmar working at a seafood market in Samut Sakhon, a province near the capital Bangkok. Millions of low-wage jobs in Thailand are filled by workers from less affluent neighbouring countries, especially Myanmar.
Since last Sunday, more than 1,000 migrant workers have tested positive for the virus, along with Thais working or living near the seafood market, which supplies much of the country.
Contact tracers tracked possible cases by identifying vendors’ major customers, and about 10,000 people at risk have been tested. Cases traced to the Samut Sakhon market have been found in 27 provinces, the government said.
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Heath authorities on Thursday confirmed 67 new cases, bringing the nation’s total to 5,829 including 60 deaths. New cases among migrant workers were not reported on Wednesday and Thursday, with the explanation that they were being rechecked.
The government’s strategy to contain the outbreak is to impose restrictions by province.
Samut Sakhon is designated a “highly controlled” area, where there are field hospitals to isolate patients, non-essential businesses are closed, people are supposed to work from home and New Year’s celebrations are banned. The province is a centre for industry, and some factories will be allowed to continue operating.
A vendor wearing a face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 sells fish from a pushcart outside a produce market in central Bangkok on Wednesday, Dec 23, 2020. (Photo: AP/Adam Schreck)
Bangkok falls into the second-most serious category of “controlled”. Public establishments will have limited hours but can remain open. There will be no public New Year’s celebrations, and private celebrations should be limited in size.
Most of the country, those provinces with fewer than 10 cases of COVID-19, fall into two categories of surveillance.
“The efforts of the last few days have paid off. Statistics are on a downward trend,” said Natapanu Nopakun, the English-language spokesman for the government’s coronavirus-fighting agency. “The key word is ‘controllable.’”
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