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Prayut Orders Plans for New Thailand Lockdown as Covid-19 Cases Jump by 382

Burmese migrant workers are confined to dormitories in Samut Sakhon now protected with razor-wire fencing.
Burmese migrant workers are confined to dormitories in Samut Sakhon now protected with razor-wire fencing.

Coronavirus cases linked to a Samut Sakhon shrimp market soared beyond 800 Monday as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered the Public Health Ministry draw up contingency plans for a new national lockdown.

The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration reported 382 new infections, including 14 locally spread cases. Of the total, 360 were found through additional testing of Burmese migrant workers at the Mahachai fresh market. The other eight cases were found in overseas returnees already in quarantine.

The 360 new cases today includes 122 cases disclosed by the Samut Sakhon on Sunday. Official coronavirus counts in Thailand run a day behind local reports.

Of the 14 local cases, a dozen are linked to the Samut Sakhon market, including two cases in Nakhon Pathom, three in Samut Prakan, five in Samut Sakhon and two in Bangkok. All were reported in the media on Sunday.

The other cases are comprised by an Ayutthaya beautician who worked in Chiang Mai, which saw an outbreak caused by a group of 10 Thai women who crossed the border illegally and skipped quarantine, and a Burmese migrant worker at a Tak Province supermarket.

In total, 821 cases have now been linked to the seafood market while Thailand’s total official cases rose to 5,289. However, results of 2,800 tests remain outstanding, meaning those numbers likely will climb much her.

It’s not as if this is all a surprise. In October, Dr. Tanarak Plipat, deputy director-general of the Disease Control Department, pointed at the exploding coronavirus epidemic in Myanmar and predicted Thailand soon would be hit by a so-called “second wave” of infections.

He predicted on Oct. 3 – when Thailand had recorded ony 3,575 cases – that the total-case number could hit 6,000 by the end of this year.

Mass testing continues in Samut Sakhon with mobile units targeting migrant workers. About 40,000 tests are anticipated so far, but Chulalongkorn University virologist Dr. Yong Poovorawan suggested that all foreign migrant workers in Thailand be tested.

Samut Sakhon remains under a near-lockdown with other provicnes carefully watching local spread. Bangkok’s governor on Saturday laid out 12 preventative measures to be taken by the city, but noe called for lockdowns.

However, Disease Control Department Director-General Opas Karnkawinpong said Monday that Prayut has instructed the Public Health Ministry to draw up guidelines to be used in determining whether individual provinces or the entire country should be locked down.

Health officials, however, continue to insist the new outbreak can be contained and suppressed within weeks, again pointing to this summer’s similar outbreak in migrant worker dormitories in Singapore.

While 152,000 migrants ended either being infected or explosed to the virus, the city-state still has recorded only 29 deaths. Yong said the reason for that is the the overwhelming majority of the migrants were young, strong and relatively healthy.

Testing in Thailand this weekend showed that migrants who tested positive overwhelmingly were asymptomatic.