Migrant infections spike prompts foreign labour halt

Migrant infections spike prompts foreign labour halt

The Labour Ministry will halt the entry of foreign labourers indefinitely as part of efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, following a recent report of 42 infections among illegal migrant workers in Songkhla.

A date for foreign workers, mostly from neighbouring countries, to get permission to work in Thailand again is yet to be determined. Permanent secretary for labour Sutthi Sukoson said such a decision would only be made when the situation "returned to normal".

Thailand has seen its number of daily Covid-19 cases remain under 20 for four days running from April 21 after weeks of drastic measures, including a six-hour curfew, to contain the coronavirus. But on April 25 the graph spiked with 53 new infections.

Forty-two of these new cases appeared among migrant workers, mostly Myanmar nationals, who have been detained at the immigration centre in Songkhla's Sadao district for illegal entry.

The incident prompted the Labour Ministry to draw up response plans, including restrictions on migrant labourer numbers. Delays to the entry of foreign labourers were first imposed from March 23.

A similar situation with high numbers of infected migrant workers in Singapore has likewise prompted a drive for greater precautions there.

Singapore has recently seen a second wave of coronavirus infections, with more than 6,000 new cases in mid-April, almost all of them registered among migrant labourers living in crowded dormitories.

Mr Sutthi also said on Monday his ministry had agreed to relax rules on working periods, allowing foreign migrant workers in Thailand to stay until Nov 30.

But employers must conduct employee health screenings and help officials educate them on guidelines to keep them safe from disease transmission.

That lenient approach was implemented as thousands of migrants workers earlier left Thailand after learning the government would close Thailand's borders to slow down the spread of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, doctors are treating the 42 migrant workers from Songkhla at a makeshift hospital inside the immigration centre. Only one, a pregnant woman from Myanmar, has been admitted to Songkhlanagarind Hospital.

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