Thailand’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-o-cha, has urged for calm on Monday as new coronavirus outbreak emerges in the country. At least 821 new infections were detected in Thailand’s worst outbreak yet.
The government said there are no immediate plans for a wider lockdown, and testing has begun for tens of thousands of people on Sunday.
The coronavirus outbreak began at a shrimp market in Samut Sakhon, southwest of Bangkok and a center of the seafood industry in Thailand. Samut Sakhon is home to thousands of migrant workers.
Only four cases were detected on Friday, but the number had jumped to 689 by Sunday as thousands were checked. On Saturday alone, the country recorded more than 500 cases, the biggest one-day increase since the pandemic started. On Monday, a further 382 new cases were confirmed.
Samut Sakhon has been placed under a two-week lockdown and nighttime curfew, while shopping malls, cinemas, spas and other entertainment venues have been closed.
Schools in three districts of Bangkok that border Samut Sakhon province have also been shut down as a precaution until January 4, 2021. Across the capital, companies have been urged to allow employees to work from home.
The prime minister said health authorities are doing everything to trace every person linked to the outbreak and will monitor the situation for a week before taking further action.
“We will have to cut the epidemic cycle quickly. We already have experience in handling it,” he wrote in a post on Facebook.
On Sunday, people, mostly migrants, lined up for nasal swabs. So far, 90% of people testing positive have been asymptomatic. The authorities plan to test 40,000 people, with efforts focused on migrant workers.
Most cases were all linked to the wholesale shrimp market. But officials said there are cases which may come from a different source, such as a woman traveling from Chiang Mai to Ayutthaya.
The communicable disease committees in all provinces, chaired by the governors, have all been authorized to make the decision whether to shut down to contain the virus.
Like its neighbor Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, Thailand has managed to contain the coronavirus before the new outbreak. Life in the country has returned to normal, albeit some safety and movement protocols. The tourist industry has also started to bounce back little by little.
In fact, Thailand has announced that all nationalities can apply to their Special Tourist Visa, which allows travelers to stay in the country for not less than 90 days. A 14-day quarantine and mandatory COVID-19 test certificate is still in place for everyone traveling to Thailand.