Virus from Samut Sakhon hotspot spreads to 22 provinces

Virus from Samut Sakhon hotspot spreads to 22 provinces

Bangkok leads cases, followed by Nakhon Pathom

Public Health workers from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration conduct coronavirus tests at Klong Toey market in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Public Health workers from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration conduct coronavirus tests at Klong Toey market in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Coronavirus infections linked to an outbreak in Samut Sakhon have now reached 22 provinces.

The Disease Control Department said on Wednesday that cases linked to the cluster in the central province have been dectected in provinces around the country -- as far north as Phetchabun, as far northeast as Khon Kaen and as far south as Phuket and Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Bangkok led case tallies with 16 patients, followed by Nakhon Pathom (10), Chachoengsao (6), Samut Prakan and Saraburi (5) and Pathum Thani (3).

Kamphaeng Phet, Nonthaburi, Prachin Buri and Ayutthaya recorded two each.

The provinces with a single case of Covid-19 are:

  • Chai Nat
  • Krabi
  • Khon Kaen
  • Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Phetchaburi
  • Phetchabun
  • Phuket
  • Prachuap Khiri Khan
  • Suphan Buri
  • Surat Thani
  • Uttaradit

The outbreak at the Central Shrimp Market in tambon Mahachai of Samut Sakhon's Muang district first became evident when a Thai vendor tested positive on Dec 17. In the following days, cases appeared in a handful of neighbouring provinces.

The latest reports shows the virus has spread far beyond the province, a seafood hub on the southwestern side of Bangkok. It was apparently carried by vendors who visited the shrimp and other other nearby markets to buy fresh seafood to resell in their provinces, or by people transporting shrimp and other seafood to and from the markets at the epicentre of the outbreak.

Officials announced 46 new coronavirus cases nationwide on Wednesday, bringing the total to 5,762, but did not divulge details of cases found in migrant worker dormitories in Samut Sakhon, the Covid hotspot.

The department, however, did release more figures in an afternoon briefing, saying 1,202 out of 6,314 people tested -- 19% -- were found to have the virus since the first case was found on Dec 17. Most of the infections were in migrant workers tested in several locations in the town, including the Central Shrimp Market.

The outbreak's epicentre is at the Central Shrimp Market -- now sealed -- where 44% of 2,025 people tested were infected. The market's labour force is dominated by workers from Myanmar but it also employs other migrants, including Laotians.

Samut Sakhon has almost 300,000 migrant workers, the overwhelming majority from Myanmar. However, that figure does not include the illegal workers who do not enter Thailand through official checkpoints, where they would be screened for the novel coronavirus that has recently spread rapidly in the neighbouring country.

Division of Communicable Diseases Director Sophon Iamsirithavorn said the percentage of those testing positive for Covid-19 was lower in areas beyond the market and in places now locked down.

Epidemiology Bureau director Walairat Chaifoo tried to ease any concerns travellers might have when visiting the infected provinces, saying the danger was minimal provided that people strictly followed disease prevention measures -- including wearing face masks and observing social distancing. "You can go to those provinces," Ms Walairat said.

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