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Koh Samui on Covid Alert After French Woman Tests Positive Post-Quarantine

Incident is Thailand's 6th local case in week following 5 cases in Tak, where army is locking down 3 provinces

The French family arrived at Koh Samui Airport on Oct. 17.
The French family arrived at Koh Samui Airport on Oct. 17.

Aggressive coronavirus testing is underway in Koh Samui after a French woman tested positive for Covid-19 on Koh Samui weeks after going through quarantine.

The Public Health Ministry said Thursday that the 57-year-old woman, her husband and child arrived in Thailand on Sept. 30 and stayed in an alternative state quarantine hotel where they were tested on Oct. 3 and 11 for the virus. All tests were returned negative.

They visited the French embassy in Bangkok before traveling to the Surat Thani island Oct. 15 on a Bangkok Airways flight. A friend picked them up at the airport and they traveled to a rental house.

Two days, later, however, the woman developed a fever, wet cough and muscle pain. She went to Bangkok Hospital Samui on Oct. 20. While she did not have a fever at the time, she was tested for the coronavirus with the positive result coming back the next day.

Both her husband and child tested negative, but all now are being held in a hospital isolation ward.

Ministry disease-control chief Dr. Sophon Iamsirichaworn told the media that during the three days between when she first developed a fever and went to the hospital the infected French woman had visited convenience stores and shopping malls.

Surat Thai public-health officers on Oct. 22 began tracing all the woman’s contacts and launching coronavirus testing in places she had been. including passengers on the Bangkok Airways PG 167 flight, the friend who picked the up from the airport, and retail outlets.

Given that the woman had tested negative upon leaving quarantine, Sophon said she had definitely been infected while in Thailand. The job now is to determine where.

6th local case this month

The incident is the sixth local case reported in Thailand in the past week. The other five cases were reported in Tak Province where two Burmese truck drivers tested positive and then infected two Thailand-based friends from Myanmar and their family members.

The army said Friday it is locking down the border even tighter in three provinces to prevent additional cases.

Army commander-in-chief Gen. Narongphan Jitkaewtae visited Mae Sot and Phop Phra districts of Tak to inspect soldiers’ operations sealing off the border with Myanmar. He said that soldiers intensified their border patrols as Covid-19 was spreading fast in the neighboring country.

Narongphan said serious border patrols were emphasized in Tak, Ranong and Chiang Rai provinces. He admitted that it was difficult to block illegal migrants due to numerous natural border crossings.

Unrelated to the Tak outbreak, the French woman’s case is similar to a case of Buriram United midfielder Akbar Ismatullaev, 29, tested positive for the virus on Sept. 10 during screening before the resumption of Thai League games. Health officials never traced the origin of his infection and none of his close contacts developed Covid-19.

The French woman’s infection also comes as public-health officials have pushed to cut or even halve the time foreign tourists arriving on the Special Tourist Visa would be required to spend in quarantine.

Meanwhile, the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration on Friday reported eight imported Covid-19 cases, all in state quarantine.

Five Thais testing positive include a flight attendant returning from the United Arab Emirates, a soldier returning from South Sudan, a 20-year old student returning from Switzerland and two women arriving from Bahrain.

The other three cases include a 54-year Iranian businessman arriving from Iran, a 40-year old French woman arriving from Switzerland and a 60-year old Swedish person arriving from the UK.

Cumulative infections in Thailand, to date, are 3,727, including 780 imported and 2,450 locally-transmitted cases.  Four new recoveries were recorded today, bringing total recoveries to 3,518 while 150 others are still being treated in hospitals. The death toll remains 59.