Two new coronavirus clusters popped up in Krabi and Rayong provinces Saturday, just hours after a top disease-control official said the Samut Sakhon outbreak had been isoldated and was under control.
Dr. Sophon Iamsirithavorn, director of the Communicable Disease Department, said one cluster involved 19 motorcycle enthusiasts, who came from across Thailand – including Samut Sakhon – for a Dec. 11-12 meetup on Koh Lanta in the southern province.
The other revolves around a group of illegal gamblers in Rayong’s Muang District.
The Samut Sakhon biker infected more from Krabi, Phuket, Bangkok and Songkhla who then passed on Covid-19 to their family members.
Rayong Gov. Charnna Iamsaeng said the gambling cluster stemmed from one person visiting Samut Sakhon and then visiting an underground casino.
The province now has identified 27 people connected to the gamblers, bringing Rayong’s total cases to 36. Muang District has now been declared a “highly controlled area” or red zone and will be subject to the harshest level of lockdown restrictions.
The governor said schools, entertainment venues, bars, nightclubs, shopping malls, non-essential retail stores, gyms, playgrounds, internet shops, massage parlors and similar will be closed. All public events also are canceled. The lockdown starts Monday and will run through Jan. 10.
Disease Control Department Director-General Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong said the gamblers, naturally, were reticent to explain what they were doing, as gambling is illegal in Thailand, creating problems for contact tracers.
The new clusters are not yet part of Thailand’s official coronavirus tally, which continues to add locally transmitted cases not connected to Samut Sakhon.
On Saturday morning, the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration reported 81 new coronavirus cases: 51 Thais and migrant workers connected to the Samut Sakhon outbreak and 11 Thais unconnected to that cluster, and nine imported cases in quarantine.
CCSA spokesman Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin said eleven more Thais now under investigation to confirm their status. Cumulative infections in Thailand, to date, are 5,910, with 4,130 recoveries. 1,713 others are still being treated in hospitals.
Opas gave an update on the first eight patients to be infected in the Samut Sakhon outbreak, saying they are expected to be released from the hospital soon, including the 95-year-old mother of the original seafood seller infected.
Public Health Permanent Secretary Dr. Kiartphum Wongrajit apparently spoke too soon, saying in the morning that there were no infection clusters outside Samut Sakhon and efforts to contain the spread were proceeding as planned.
Hours later that all changed.