Clarity on Yala cases needed
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Clarity on Yala cases needed

The Public Health Ministry must bring clarity to the matter of the 40 false positive Covid-19 cases in Yala in an open and transparent manner.

As noted by Centre for the Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) spokesman Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, trust is foremost as the country works to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

While false negatives or positives are possible when it comes to the Covid-19 standard RT-PCR test, the Yala case reportedly stems from contamination in controlled test equipment.

An investigation is underway to find out what went wrong at the Yala lab. The CCSA said yesterday that results of a third test by the Department of Medical Sciences to determine whether the 40 people contracted the virus are still pending.

The CCSA must ramp up comprehensive testing at immigration centres to prevent them from becoming new infection clusters.

Meanwhile, the CCSA often tells people not to drop their guard and be complacent about the outbreak. The same goes for the centre when it comes to racial bias.

On Monday, the CCSA reported 18 new cases and no deaths. That number was an increase from single-digit infection rates over the preceding days, but also appeared to be no cause for alarm as the newly infected are all illegal migrants confined to an immigration detention centre in Songkhla.

What was alarming, however, was the publication of a seemingly jubilant banner online that said: "Finally, the number of new infections among Thais has come down to zero". The same banner carried what looked like a qualification in smaller print at the bottom: "But 18 migrant workers were found to be infected".

This discrimination is totally unprofessional.

That the new cases are from illegal migrants does not mean they should not be counted when it comes to health care, especially when they are being detained within the country.

The implicit bias embedded in the banner could communicate the wrong idea to the public. Once spread, bigotry will be even more dangerous and difficult to eradicate than the virus.

More importantly, it raises concern about whether the CCSA is ignoring infections among non-Thais which does not bode well for the country's overall efforts to curb the outbreak.

Instead of brushing aside the infections among illegal migrants, the CCSA must pay closer attention to them.

The infections at the Songkhla immigration detention centre are thought to be the largest cluster in the country, according to the CCSA.

The number of new cases rose from 42 two weeks ago to 60 now, including the 18 new cases reported on Monday. Six immigration officers were found to have contracted the virus while more than 100 had to go into self-quarantine, BBC Thai reported.

The Songkhla case should indicate that more comprehensive testing should be conducted at the country's other 22 immigration detention centres as well as among migrant workers.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, it's unclear whether migrant communities have access to information about Covid-19 or resources which will allow them to maintain the hygiene and sanitation standards required for effective protection.

The case of Singapore, where a second wave of infection occurred mainly among migrant workers living in crowded conditions, offers a lesson on why these people should not be left out.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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