Staring down the prospect of 18,000 coronavirus cases a day, Thailand quickly is moving back toward full lockdown, despite assertions to the contrary from its prime minister.
The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration reported 279 more confirmed cases and two deaths on Friday, 273 of which were transmitted locally. That followed 194 cases on Thursday and 250 on Wednesday. Since the first second-wave case was reported in Samut Sakhon, Thailand has added more than 2,700 cases and three deaths, an increase of 60 percent since the start of the pandemic.
Total cases stood at 7,163 and deaths at 63 today.
While the outbreak began in the Central Shrimp Market in Samut Sakhon, it has moved on from there. Only 16 migrant laborers tested positive on Friday. The overwhelming majority of cases now involved Thais spread the virus to other Thais, sometimes in illegal casinos, sometimes by simply refusing to take the new outbreak seriously.
The Thai patients reported today include 90 in Samut Sakhon, 51 in Chonburi, 37 in Rayong, 29 in Chanthaburi, 20 in Bangkok, 13 in Samut Prakan, seven in Trat, two in each Pathum Thani and Sa Kaeo, and one in each Nakhon Si Thammarat, Lamphun, Surin, Nakhon Pathum, Ubon Ratchathani and Chachoengsao.
The 16 infected migrant workers include 15 in Samut Sakhon and one in Ang Thong. There were also six imported cases found in state quarantine.
The deaths, meanwhile, include a 44-year-old in Bangkok and a 70-year-old in Mae Sot. The Bangkok resident tested positive for Covid-19 only Wednesday.
Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin, the CCSA’s spokesman, said the Bangkok man had had visited a restaurant on Dec. 20 before developing a cough and runny nose after Christmas. He went to Charoenkrung Pracharak Hospital on Dec. 30 two days after developing a fever. He died that afternoon after being transferred to Chulalongkorn Hospital.
Meanwhile, the 70-year-old in Tak’s Mae Sot district tested positive for the virus on Dec. 4 and died Thursday at 10 p.m. to pneumonia and respiratory failure.
While Samut Sakhon first said its shutdown order would last through Jan. 3, and Bangkok said its first order closing bars and massage parlors was until Jan. 4, both have already been extended “indefinitely”. The long-predicted and initially denied “second wave” has now washed across 53 provinces and is expected to cover the entire country by the middle of the month.
“Do not think this outbreak will end in one or two days,” Taweesin warned Friday, following on comments from Thursday’s news briefing.
“We must admit that this New Year is not the same. The infection rate, which is now showing a three-digit daily increase, must be brought down. Although there is no full lockdown yet, we must adjust in line with disease-control measures,” he said then.
Fueled by New Year’s holiday travel, the second-wave is project to gain momentum and, if left unmitigated, would see Thailand suffer 18,000 cases a day by Jan. 14, Taweesin said.
The CCSA has developed three models showing how Thailand can “flatten the curve”, a phrase the kingdom had been fortunate not to have heard since July.
The first and worst – no mitigation efforts – will soar to the tall curve seen around the world (except in the U.S., which has never musted the resolve to bring its curve down).
In the second model, which forsees only minor efforts to control the virus, the middle of the month could see 4,000 cases a day.
The third model, which the government has already shown it’s planning to adhere to, calls for enforcement of stringent measures and hopes for public cooperation, which is not the same given it was last spring, before pandemic fatigue set in.
It calls for facemask to be worn at all time outdoors and in public, regular hand-washing and shutdown measures that could reach the level of a new lockdown, with restrictions on movement between provinces and a night-time curfew.
The curve currently is sloping up 45 degrees, Taweesin said, and Thailand is headed to several thousand cases a day if more is not done.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha reiterated in Pattaya on Wednesday there would be no national lockdown, but he gave provincial governors the power to lockdown their jurisdictions. But Prayut’s ultra-conservative track record shows he has had little patience with any sort of outbreak and may soon do an about-face, Thai economy be damned.