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Chiang Mai Covid-19 Victim Snuck into Thailand, Skipped Quarantine

Coughing and feverish, woman still went to karaoke bar, cinema, restaurants

Public health workers spray disinfectant inside a Chiang Mai restaurant were a coronavirus-infected woman visited.
Public health workers spray disinfectant inside a Chiang Mai restaurant were a coronavirus-infected woman visited.

A Chiang Mai woman who tested positive for the coronavirus Friday may have entered Thailand illegally from Myanmar and skipped quarantine, authorities said.

Health officials on Saturday were scrambling to reach and test 326 people deemed to be at-risk of contracting the diease from the bar hostess. More than 100 of those were considered at high risk.

The 29-year-old Thai woman had returned from Myanmar where she had been since Oct. 23 and where she likely was infected, said Dr. Sopon Liamsirithavorn, director of the Communicable Diseases Division at the Public Health Ministry.

On Nov. 23, she developed a fever, diarrhea and lost her sense of smell. The next day she developed a cough and headache, but still proceeded to travel to Mae Sai District in Chiang Rai by a public van and never entered quarantine.

The only way that happens, authorities said, is if she entered the country illegally.

Early on Nov. 25 she arrived in Chiang Mai by bus and went to her condominium with a Grab ride-sharing car. She took another Grab that night to meet friends, share cigarettes and sing at a karaoke bar in the Santitham area. After the bar closed, the three women joined two others in a friend’s apartment to continue drinking.

On Nov. 25 the infected woman continued her travels by Grab Car, visiting shopping malls, a cinema, restaurants and retail stores. She was said to have worn a mask most of the time.

Only on Nov. 26 did she finally go to a private hospital in Chiang Mai where she was tested for Covid-19. When the test came back positive, she was transferred to Nakornping Hospital.

Chiang Mai has gone into full-on panic mode, with Central Festival Chiang Mai closed for a “big cleaning”, several employees quarantined for 14 days, alerts sent to everyone who checked in with the ThaiChana contact-tracing app, and public-health workers in full hazmat suits spraying disinfectant inside the karaoke bar in Chang Phuek Subdistrict and other locations the woman visited.

This story appeared in the Chiang Mai Mail, a Bangkok Herald partner.