[Update] Latest outbreak now spread to 45 provinces; medical projects worth more than 10 billion baht approved by the cabinet

Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health said that it has discovered 155 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

Of the new cases, 134 were local infections while 11 cases were found in migrant dormitories. Ten cases were found in state and alternate state quarantine.

A fatality was confirmed in Rayong and the patient will be added to the death toll in the official numbers tomorrow. This would increase the death toll to 61.

The deceased patient is a 45-year-old man who worked at an illegal gambling den in Rayong.

He had two preexisting conditions prior to contracting the virus, which were diabetes and a heart disease. The cause of death is still being determined.

Rayong is fast becoming a new cluster for the latest outbreak with at least 103 confirmed cases in this cluster alone. Of that, 56 was found in Rayong and 28 in Chonburi. 

Several senior police commanders have been transferred because of the outbreak, which began in illegal gambling dens in the province. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha is due to arrive at the province later on Tuesday to get the latest update on the situation.

The latest outbreak, which started in Samut Sakhon, has now spread from six provinces at the initial stage to at least 45 provinces in less than two weeks. The largest number of confirmed cases outside of Samut Sakhon is Bangkok.

Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, the spokesperson of the Centre of COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), said if there are no precautionary measures in place. The number of cases could increase to 18,000 new cases by January 14.

If moderate measures are in place – which is what the government is doing right now – the number could be around 4,000 cases new cases.

If extreme measures are in place, the number could be less than 1,000 new cases.

“The potential that we are at right now is in the orange line, which is troublesome. The line is going up by 45 degrees with around 100 patients per day,” said Dr Taweesin. 

Chanthaburi

Chanthaburi found seven new confirmed coronavirus cases on Tuesday. One of the patients, a 34-year-old male, visited a gambling den in Rayong.

Gambling dens in Rayong have been the main source of the latest outbreak. Now, there is at least one related case to it outside the province in Chanthaburi.

Apart from visiting the gambling den in Rayong, the patient also visited three other gambling dens in Chanthaburi before testing positive for the virus on Tuesday.

Local authorities in Chanthaburi are now looking for people who came in close contact with the patient in the gambling dens, in order to prevent any further spread of the virus from the illegal venues.

Zoning

Zoning measures that were introduced to divide areas into four different levels will be utilized in the local level of each province. For example, the district in Rayong that is the epicenter will be a “highly controlled area” while the surrounding sub-districts will be a “controlled area”, according to Dr Taweesin.

If they were to label Rayong province as a whole as a highly controlled area and the neighboring provinces as a controlled area, that would be unfair, he said.

Each province has been ordered by the Ministry of Interior to determine which level of zoning measures are to be put in place by Wednesday.

The four areas are, in descending order of severity, as follows:

  1. Highly controlled area – red (many cases in multiple areas)
  2. controlled area – orange (over ten cases with the likelihood to increase)
  3. highly monitored area – yellow (less than ten cases)
  4. monitored area – green (no cases)

Lockdown measures

Dr Taweesin said that there will be no nationwide lockdowns but everything will be based on the decision made by governors – who will ultimately decide what type of measures will be in place.

Bangkok, for example, announced on Monday that venues that are at risk of spreading the virus, such as horse racing tracks, cockfighting pits, and massage parlors, are to be temporarily closed.

Cabinet

The cabinet approved on Tuesday ten medical projects for the “new round” of the coronavirus outbreak worth 11.3 billion baht.

Ratchada Dhanadirek, the government spokesperson, said the budget will be coming from the one trillion baht emergency loan decree.

About 600 billion was set aside for implementing health-related plans and financial aid to individuals and businesses that were affected by the pandemic.

The projects are divided into three groups including;

1.   A budget of more than 4.3 billion baht for five projects under the outbreak monitoring and prevention efforts. This includes a budget for more than one million village health volunteers worth 1.57 billion baht. It also includes a plan to gain faster access to covid-vaccines by the National Vaccine Institute worth 1.81 billion baht.

2.   A budget worth 6.96 billion baht for three projects that looks to provide medicine and medical equipment for coronavirus treatments. The projects are under the management of the Ministry of Public Health and the National Health Security Office.

3.   A budget worth 27.2 million baht for two projects with the aim to provide supports for the prevention against the spread of coronavirus such as the purchase of screening equipment in preparation for the new round of the outbreak.

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