As the number of imported coronavirus cases continues to climb and both Australia and New Zealand point to border lapses as the cause of new outbreaks, Thailand is doubling-down on its own border and quarantine procedures.
The country on Friday reported that 16 Thais returning from two of the globes hottest hotspots – India and the United States – along with one from Australia all tested positive for Covid-19 in state quarantine. That was the most cases found in 24 hours in 70 days.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Cherdkiat Atthakor Friday that about 69,000 Thais had returned home since April, with another 50 arriving today from India and more than 100 arriving from the U.S. and Paris.
America, of course, is the world’s worst at controlling the virus, which has killed 160,000 and infected 5 million there. India isn’t far behind with 2.5 million infections and 48,000 deaths, up 64,000 and 1,000, respectively, on Friday. Paris, meanwhile, was tagged by the French government on Friday as again a “high-risk” coronavirus zone.
In light of the fire raging outside its door, Thailand is protecting its border even more urgently, especially in light of fresh outbreaks in Oceania where Australia and New Zealand are now learning that their definition of the border, and border security, needs to expand to control the pandemic.
Signs of Thailand’s stepped-up control were apparent in Yala on Friday where tightened disease-control measures at the land crossing with Malaysia after a new cluster of nine cases was reported in Baling, Kedah, close to the Thai border.
Public-health officials and staff from Betong Hospital increased health checks at the Betong checkpoint. Travelers from Malaysia were subjected to strict screenings and all vehicles were disinfected.
Health-quarantine officers said Thai migrant workers at restaurants and other services in Malaysia are continuing to return to Thailand. All returnees are required to undergo 14-day quarantine upon entry.
As for the tens of thousands of Thais still stranded abroad due to Thailand’s limit of only 500 people a day, Dr. Somsak Akasilp, director-general of the Medical Services Department, said teams of doctors and nurses have joined LINE chat groups to dispense medical advice and telemedicine services for both physical- and mental-health problems they may have.
As Thais increasingly doing to foreigners here, Thais abroad are facing xenophobic discrimination. Somsak said he was worried about the condition of illegal Thai workers in South Korea who were too afraid to seek medical services when they fell sick.
The department learned from the chat groups that some stranded Thais had chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cancer and, after trying to return to Thailand, were admitted at “hospital quarantine” facilities where they would be both treated and quarantined.