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With 39 New Local Cases, Covid-19 Outbreak Creeps Across Thailand

Like cracks on a windshield, the coronavirus outbreak that began at a Samut Sakhon seafood market continues to creep across Thailand, with cases popping up in 17 provinces, four of which have now imposed limited lockdowns.

The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration on Wednesday reported 39 new cases locally transmitted among Thais, plus another seven returnees in quarantine. In a face-saving move, the CCSA said it will now release the number of positive tests among Burmese migrant workers separately.

The dehumanizing tactic, first used by Singapore during this summer’s migrant-dormitories outbreak, empowers the “Us vs. Them” mentality sweeping Thailand and perpetuates the belief Burmese lives are worth less than Thais, despite platitudes from the CCSA’s spokesman.

“I want everyone to view them as family,” Dr. Taweesin Visvanathan told the media this morning. “They have been helping us in driving our economy for a very long time. When family members are sick, we have to take care of them. Don’t hesitate to help by donating or providing necessities since they are living in hard times.”

The outbreak may have started in the crowded dorms of the Mahachai fresh market, but it’s Thais who are taking the virus nationwide. New local cases were reported in Bangkok (11), Chachoengsao (5), Nakhon Pathom (3), Kamphaeng Phet (2), Tak (2), Prachin Buri (2), Ayutthaya (2), Samut Prakan (2), Saraburi (2), and one each in Phetchabun, Krabi, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Phuket and Suphan Buri.

Not yet included in the official totals is a Nakhon Si Thammarat woman who tested positive after returning from Samut Sakhon.

Officially, the number of confirmed cases rose to 5,762 – 1,394 in quarantine. Of those, 1,607 are in hospital and ad-hoc quarantine facilities while 4,095 have recovered and 60 died.

Four provinces have imposed limited to serious lockdowns, with Samut Sakhon escalating its previous order to declare the entire province a “quarantined area”  through Jan. 3. Sports stadiums, public parks and educational institutions are now closed. Restaurants can only offer takeaway service and grocery stores must be close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

In Samut Songkhram Province, adjacent to Samut Sakhon, Gov. Charas Boonnasa on Tuesday night ordered all schools, including nurseries, cinemas, shopping malls (except supermarkets), drug stores and food halls, closed until Jan. 4. The province has confirmed six cases, all linked to Samut Sakhon.

Samut Prakan has closed all its public venues and canceled events until Jan. 4. And Chiang Mai has clamped a lockdown in three subdistricts – Tha Ton, Malika and Mae Ai – following new local cases unconnected to Samut Sakhon.

In fact, only 30 of the 39 new cases reported today were tied to the seafood market. The North continues to find cases linked to neighboring Myanmar, illegal immigrants and Thais who crossed the border illegally and skipped quarantine.

Others included two Chinese nationals, a businessman and a tourist in Bangkok, two Myanmar nationals, a housewife in Krabi and a department store employee in Tak.