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With Pivot to Mass Testing, Thailand Unlikely to See 0 Covid-19 Cases Until Pandemic Ends

Kingdom discovers what West already knew: More testing leads to more cases

Thailand Coronavirus Covid-19 Test Testing-

Thailand has discovered what countries around the world already knew: The more coronavirus testing you do, the more cases you’ll find.

The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration on Friday reported another 309 new Covid-19 cases, 217 of them through “pro-active testing” at factories and migrant worker camps. Eighty local cases were found normally – at hospitals and clinics – while thirteen were imported cases already in quarantine.

As much as business owners and the public yearn for Thailand to return to long stretches of zero locally transmitted coronavirus cases, the government’s pivot to mass testing likely means those days are over for the duration of the pandemic. It also reinforces the long-held belief that the virus was always in Thailand, despite months without a major cluster or outbreak.

The question now becomes how many confirmed cases will the former generals with no medical training will tolerate without imposing economically catastrophic shutdowns. Proof of just how devastating the pandemic’s rigid controls have been surfaced this week with a World Bank report that 1.5 million Thais fell below the poverty line during 2020.

The second shutdown, which began at the end of December, has been shorter than last year’s four months of restrictions, but more severe. People and businesses made use of savings to weather the first lockdown, but don’t have the reserves to survive the second shutdown.

Pressure has been building to quickly end the restrictions, with signs that local governments are listening. Chiang Mai this week reopened its markets and walking streets, Koh Larn in Chonburi reopened to the world on Thursday, Kanchanaburi’s governor yesterday revoked the order closing the province’s hotels and Bangkok today lifted restrictions on 13 classes of businesses, although bars, clubs, massage parlors and other “high-risk” venues remain closed and restaurants are still banned from selling alcohol and must close by 9 p.m.

Total cases in the country now stand at 13,104 with 2,809 people currently receiving treatment, including 10 in critical condition. There have been 71 deaths.

CCSA spokesman Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin said aggressive testing continues to find cases with Samut Sakhon remaining a hotbed of infection. More than ,000 cases have been found in the province since December. Chonburi and Bangkok are tied for second with 648.

Bangkok reported 13 new cases on Friday, five from pro-active testing, which is set to accelerate in districts adjacent to Samut Sakhon and others with large numbers of factories.

The virus’ penetration into Thai society has become evident this week with a government news service broadcaster and a big-name celebrity announcing they had contracted Covid-19. One casualty of those cases is Taweensin himself, who will go into self-isolation after he was in contact with the NBT television broadcaster.

All 1,200 employees of NBT have been asked to leave the building and take swab tests. The entire facility is now closed for cleaning and disinfection.

The broadcaster was among the eight local cases in Bangkok not found through pro-active testing. Another 49 were reported in Samut Sakhon.

That province also reported 212 cases found in testing campaigns with 196 of them being Burmese migrant workers. Since Thailand’s coronavirus second wave formed there, Samut Sakhon and adjacent Bangkok districts have confirmed 5,036 of the country’s 8,302 cases.

Samut Sakhon in coming days will test around 1,200 people living near the Central Shrimp Market where the outbreak began. If no new cases around found among the group – which already has been tested once – the shrimp market will reopen on Jan. 26.