[Update-2] Thailand discovers 548 coronavirus cases in Samut Sakhon; many in migrant worker community

Thailand’s government said on Saturday that it had discovered 516 new coronavirus cases in the fishing town of Samut Sakhon bringing the total number of cases in the province to 548.

According to the government, most of those cases were found in migrant worker populations with 90 per cent of cases asymptomatic. Officials said they would still continue to conduct aggressive testing.

The government said in an unscheduled address to the nation on Saturday night that it had been conducting Covid-19 testing in the province after discovering a case at a fresh market in the province last week.

The Ministry of Public Health said that the province will now go into partial lockdown with only necessary travel allowed. The lockdown will take place from December 19 to January 3.

Police said check points will be in place starting from the night of December 19.

The ministry said on Saturday that it will continue to monitor both Thai and migrant populations closely and that migrants will not be allowed to travel from the province.

Officials say they will now conduct testing in foreign workers’ dormitories.

Thais can still travel within the province but must notify the ministry official of their travels through a tracing application.

The government had previously said on December 17 that a Thai woman working in a local fresh market tested positive for Covid-19.

Wirasak Wichitsaengsi, the governor of Samut Sakhon made the announcement.

The patient, according to official records, had not traveled to any country and the source of her infection remains unknown. On Friday, it was discovered that the three of the patient’s close acquaintances, namely the 67-year-old’s older sister, mother, and sister-in-law.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters earlier on Saturday that he believed the Samut Sakhon cluster could be due to migrant workers illegally crossing over from Myanmar to work in the fishing industry.

Samut Sakhon, which is located about 1 hour away from Bangkok, is a fishing hub which employs tens of thousands of migrant workers from surrounding countries to work in fisheries. The area is also a hub for Thai workers working in the industry.

The province, along with the rest of the country, is due to hold local elections on Sunday for the first since a 2014 military coup. Officials say that the elections would go ahead but masks and social distancing was mandatory.

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