Home Coronavirus

Thailand Scrambling to Explain Away Covid-19 Infections in 23 Deported Burmese Workers

19 were reported as being infected in the South, but what about the 4 others?

Thirty-five deported Myanmar migrants arrive back in Myawaddy, Karen State on June 8
Thirty-five deported Myanmar migrants arrive back in Myawaddy, Karen State on June 8

Public Health officials are continuing to flail about while tryin to explain how 23 Burmese migrant workers tested positive for the coronavirus after being deported from Thailand.

Myanmar reported the positive tests Friday after the migrants – detained in Thailand on visa violations – were returned via the Mae Sot border crossing. At that point, Thailand officially had reported no locally transmitted cases of the virus in 25 days, sparking criticism that the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration had been fudging Thailand’s virus statistics.

Dr. Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Disease Control Department, said Monday that 19 of the 23 workers – al of whom had been transferred from an immigration detention center in Sadao, Songkhla – had been officially been reported as testing positive for Covid-19 there in mid-March, been treated and had recovered by mid-April. For two weeks after their recovery they continued to remain in isolation he said.

It is possible, he said, that could have been re-infected but – as a study out of South Korea proved last month – they would not have been contagious. A test would return positive, but any virus they shed would be dead already and incapable of being passed on.

Of course, that still leaves four others with coronavirus infections never reported by Thailand. Suwannachai said an investigation is under way to trace their journey from Sadao to Mae Sot and test anyone they came in contact with.

Suwannachai noted that its possible that the migrants contracted the virus in Myanmar, which officially had reported fewer than 300 cases of Covid-19, a laughably small number.

On Sunday all workers at the Mae Sot border checkpoint were tested and found to be virus-free. Similar testing is being done at detention centers in Bangkok and the North. So far, no other positive cases have been found.

Suwannachai noted that its possible that the migrants contracted the virus in Myanmar, which officially had reported fewer than 300 cases of Covid-19, a laughably small number. The migrants were deported on June 8 and did not test positive until June 18.

Suwannachai admitted Thailand had done a poor job of managing virus prevention at its detention centers, with more than 60,000 detainees and migrant workers never receiving tests. But that has now been remedied, he said.

However, additional steps will be put in place to test detainees at each stop they make across the country on their way to deportation.