Urgent Covid testing starts after Tak cases

Urgent Covid testing starts after Tak cases

3 border infections put province on alert

Administrative and health authorities visit a cargo-handling yard in Mae Sot district, Tak, on Monday. (Photo: Assawin Pinitwong)
Administrative and health authorities visit a cargo-handling yard in Mae Sot district, Tak, on Monday. (Photo: Assawin Pinitwong)

Three mobile Covid-19 testing units were on Monday sent to examine about 4,000 Thai and Myanmar nationals in Mae Sot district of Tak province after three Myanmar lorry drivers tested positive for the new coronavirus at the Thai border between Friday and Saturday.

All are residents of border communities seen as being at high risk of spreading the virus that causes Covid-19, said Thoetkiat Shinsoranan, mayor of Mae Sot City Municipality.

The active testing was carried out while residents of this municipality were being warned to stay home and avoid travelling as much as they could, said Mr Thoetkiat.

Eleven schools were ordered closed on Monday for cleaning and disinfecting. The schools remain closed on Tuesday on a public holiday and will open again on Wednesday. In the wake of the discovery of the three new infections at the border, the two main fresh markets in Mae Sot district saw a significant drop in shoppers on Monday even though most shops were open as usual, said a source.

At Pha Charoen Market, a fresh market near the Thai-Myanmar border, Covid-19 screening measures were heightened, and the mandatory wearing of face masks at all times was strictly enforced, said the source.

Posters saying a violation of the face mask regulation may lead to a maximum fine of 2,000 baht were visible at the entrance to the market, while free surgical masks were given out to migrant workers who didn't have one.

Vehicles from Myanmar are still banned from entering Thailand. They are currently only allowed to load and unload goods at designated areas in the district until further notice.

The first two Covid-19 cases were found on Friday during active testing of lorry drivers from Myanmar at the border by health and local officials, while the third case -- also a lorry driver -- was found on Saturday after a disease investigation team conducted further testing of 74 workers at two local warehouses where the two Myanmar drivers unloaded goods. All three infected drivers were immediately sent back to Myawaddy.

Tak governor Phongrat Phiromrat said all 70 of the traced contacts of the infected drivers had tested negative for Covid-19 and are now being quarantined. This group will undergo a second test on Tuesday and a final test at the end of their 14-day quarantine, he said.

The province has also tightened up its record-keeping of both vehicles and drivers crossing the Thai-Myanmar border, he said.

The discovery of the three cases has prompted the Public Health Ministry to step up active testing for Covid-19 in all vulnerable areas.

Thanitphon Chaiyanan, adviser to Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, said during a visit to Mae Sot district on Monday that none of the 1,500 people already tested was found to have the virus.

More tests will be conducted in more high risk communities in the border district in the next two to three days, to assure members of the public that effective measures are being maintained, he said.

In related news, four Myanmar illegal migrants were detained while attempting to cross Moei River into Thailand in Ban Don Chai in tambon Mae Tao of Mae Sot district. The four men were caught by a security force patrolling the border.

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