Thailand counts more virus cases, limits travel

BANGKOK (AP) – Thailand reported 527 new coronavirus cases, most of them migrant workers who already were isolated, and the government said it was tightening movements of people around the country.

Thailand has been struggling with a sudden virus surge after months of hardly any cases of domestic transmission.

Field hospitals were being set up in parts of five provinces with many cases. Large parts of the country, including the capital Bangkok, are under various lockdown restrictions, and the government said it will additionally restrict travel between virus-hit provinces to goods, cargo and necessary travel, and set up checkpoints on some roads.

Of the new cases confirmed yesterday, 439 were migrants, 82 were local transmissions and six were in quarantined travellers, the Centre of COVID-19 Situation Administration said. The total was a drop from the 745 registered on Monday, the all-time high in Thailand, where the first case of the virus outside China was detected last January.

Most of the surge since last month has been in Samut Sakhon province, next to Bangkok, among migrant workers living in dormitories and employed in fish markets and factories. A field hospital next to the market is treating the infected migrants.

Passengers get off to be examined at a check point on the border of Samut Sakhon province and Bangkok, in Thailand. PHOTO: AP

Although it has cancelled public activities and gatherings and shut schools, bars and other places where people gather, the government has not yet taken measures as strict as those that it imposed in March – when it successfully stamped out local transmission.

Malls and department stores remain open with social distancing required, and indoor dining at restaurants is allowed until 9pm.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha instead implored people to stay home.

“We don’t want to lock down the entire country because we know what the problems are, so can you all lock down yourselves?” he said. “This is up to everyone, if you don’t want to get infected just stay home for 14 to 15 days. If you think like this then things will be safe, easier for screening.”

The government also has been scrambling to try to acquire more vaccines after an initial period of complacency.

Prayuth said onMonday that Thailand is seeking to secure 63 million doses, which wouldn’t cover half of its population of about 70 million. It has so far about 28 million doses on order for later in the year.