Mass tests target fresh markets

Mass tests target fresh markets

Proactive step to tackle major clusters

The Public Health Ministry is proposing to carry out mass Covid-19 testing of more than 200,000 people at all fresh markets in the 29 provinces declared dark red zones to curb virus transmission.

The proposal will be submitted to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration's (CCSA) this week for approval, said deputy government spokeswoman, Traisuree Taisaranakul, yesterday.

The plan is a proactive measure aimed at reducing transmission of the virus after authorities found that fresh markets are major clusters.

From April 1 until Aug 10, a total of 132 markets in 23 provinces were found to be linked to a total 14,678 Covid-19 infections, she said, citing data reported by the ministry.

Targeting more than 200,000 vendors, workers, shoppers and residents in nearby communities, the testing programme will be divided into three phases, she said.

In the first phase of the active case-finding programme, teams will be sent out to conduct Covid-19 screening tests at 27 large markets in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Ratchaburi, Chon Buri, Nakhon Ratchasima, Songkhla and Sa Keao as well as in communities surrounding these markets, she said.

Later in the second phase, the Covid-19 testing operation will be carried out at 117 markets of all sizes in 16 out of all 29 dark-red provinces, while all people at 684 markets in all 29 provinces who are included in the Covid-19 testing programme should be tested in the third and last phase, she said.

A total of 850,000 sets of the Covid-19 antigen test kits being procured by health authorities will be used in the mass testing programme, expected to take a full month to finish, she said.

Aside from getting the people tested for Covid-19, the programme will also involve other Covid-19 control measures including preparing more field hospitals and Covid-19 isolation facilities for new infections detected throughout the testing programme, she said.

In another development, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has stressed the need for security authorities to step up crackdowns on illegal gatherings for partying and other activities, which risk exacerbating the outbreak situation, said Ms Traisuree.

He told the national police and all local administrative authorities to curb these activities, especially partying.

Those who are caught in such gatherings will face tough punishment, while state officials who ignore the presence of these illegal activities will face legal action for dereliction of duty, said the PM.

Members of the public, meanwhile, are being asked to report such activities to the police or local administrative authorities, said Ms Traisuree.

On Saturday, a combined force of police and local administrative officials in Koh Samui district of Surat Thani had raided a luxury villa in tambon Bo Phut and detained 24 suspects, 11 foreigners and 13 Thais.

Among the foreign suspects were a French man and a woman from the Philippines who were arrested for possessing cocaine, police said. The suspects were caught partying without wearing face masks in a crowded room, which heightened the risk of spreading and catching Covid-19, police said.

The French man was also found to have overstayed his visa while six other suspects were found to be people supposed to remain in Covid-19 isolation after they were treated for Covid-19 infections at a field hospital recently, police said.

These suspects were charged with colluding to break the emergency decree, invoked to contain the spread of Covid-19, and the disease control law, while the French suspect also faced charges for illegal entry.

The French and Filipino were also charged in a separated drug case, said a source.

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