A steady and significant drop in locally transmitted coronavirus cases across Thailand is fueling expectations that restrictions on travel and businesses will be lifted by month’s end.
The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration on Tuesday reported just 33 local cases out of 171 total confirmed infections. The CCSA said 125 cases were found through testing of in dormitories and factories dominated by migrant workers while 13 were overseas returnees already in quarantine. Only 14 of those cases involved Thais.
CCSA spokesman Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin said all 33 local cass were exposed to the virus in high-risk areas with 18 of them found I Samut Sakhon. Of those, only four were Thai.
Total cases in Thailand now stand at 12,594. Of those, 9,356 people have recovered and 3,168 patients are being treated. Deaths stand at 70.
The second wave of the outbreak has led to 8,357 confirmed cases since Dec. 15. However, only four provinces – Samut Sakhon, Chonburi, Bangkok and Bangkok – still have more than 100 patients still in hospitals.
Ten provinces have fewer than 100 active cases with 32 of those fewer than 10. Of Thailand’s 77 provinces, 31 have no active cases and have been downgraded to “yellow zones”.
Chonburi on Tuesday reported no new cases for the first time this year after confirming just two on Monday. Rayong on Monday reported just one. Both provinces had been the hottest of Thailand’s hotspots following serious outbreaks tied to underground casinos and a beer garden open illegally in Sri Racha.
Taweesin acknowledged the progress being made in draining the second wave, but said three areas remained concerning: Bangkok< Samut Sakhon and the South.
He said cases continue to pop up in western Bangkok all tied to massage parlors and pubs violating shutdown orders with most infections found along the coast of Bang Khun Thian District.
Samut Sakhon, the original epicenter of the second-wave outbreak, still poses a threat, Taweesin said, as the provinces has more than 10,000 factories densely packed with migrant workers, many of which have not been tested.
Malaysia’s serious new outbreak, meanwhile, has set off alarm bells in the Far South again, the CCSA spokesman said.
“We want to study and look at similar cases in our neighboring countries like Singapore, who took three months to manage the outbreak,” said Dr Thaweesin. “However, it may be three months too long and we do not want the lockdown to last that long.”
It’s clear the public won’t tolerate – and the economy can’t survive – three more months of restrictions and pressure already is leading to some relaxations.
Chiang Mai will reopen its weekend markets and walking streets starting tomorrow as the province has seen no new cases for six consecutive days. The total number of cases in Chiang Mai stands at 69, of which 23 popped up during the second wave.
Thais and expats, comparing the hundreds of thousands of cases and thousands of deaths being reported daily in some countries around the world with Thailand’s miniscule number of cases and deaths, say continued severe restrictions are dong more harm than good.
A group of entertainment venues on Monday called on the government to ease shutdown measures and provide assistance to affected businesses.
Pubs and bars are always the first to be closed and the last to reopen, the group complained but far more people are endangered by economic hardship than the virus.
The businesses want suspension of debt repayment for entertainment businesses, including pub and bar owners, concert organizers, musicians, singers and related staff as well as soft loans with little or no interest.
They also demanded permission to open in areas where there have been no confirmed cases for 28 days.