Piblic transport in Chiang Mai tries to keep itself clean from the virus after the fresh cases have broken out. Credit: Public Health Ministry

Covid-19 emergency operation beefed up as local transmissions emerge

Thailand this week has been spooked by the re-emergence of local transmissions of Covid-19 after a months-long absence, following the initial cases which had been brought in from Myanmar’s border town since late last week

The Public Health Ministry today has issued a swift instruction to provincial public health offices nationwide to set up Covid-19 emergency operation centers in their responsible provinces after having received a report of the second locally infected case with a connection with some previously imported cases linked to Myanmar’s border town of Tachilek, next to Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district.

The centres have been instructed to monitor and assess the developments in their provinces as well as any respiratory-related diseases. They have also been instructed to prepare medical resources and equipment in advance to take new cases while public health volunteers will be sent out to knock the doors to alert communities about the situation, according to Dr. Kiattibhum Wongrajit, the Public Health Ministry’s Permanent Secretary.

The Public Health Ministey briefs the latest developments this week.
Credit: Public Health Ministry

Since November 28, Thailand has reported a string of Covid-19 infection cases, brought into the country from Tachilek of Myanmar, where at least 13 women from Northern provinces including Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Phayao, and as far as Pichit, Ratchaburi, and Bangkok in the Central region had travelled to the town to work in or visit some entertainment venues before sneaking back mostly to the country via natural borders to elude 14-day quarantine.

Instead of undertaking self-quarantine, some of them were reported of spending time around in night entertainment venues and a music festival in Chiang Rai.

As the first case of them was intercepted and reported of being positive to Covid-19 on November 27 in Chiang Mai, following days of sickness before sneaking back to Thailand on November 24, they have been followed up and taken to hospital.

Up to 699 people have been classified as having both high and low risks of Covid-19 infection, as having contacted with these people in various venues and occasions.

Credit: Public Health Ministry

At least two of the classified cases were announced yesterday of having been infected with the virus from them. One is a male friend of the woman from Phayao who accompanied her to the music festival in Chiang Rai on November 29, and the other is a passenger from Singburi boarding on the same flight in Chiang Rai with one of these Covid-19 patients.

”Covid-19 cases worldwide are still on the rise, our neighbours included, thus we have to prepare ourselves well to handle the situation, especially when there have been illegal entries through natural borders which are increasingly evident,” said Dr. Kiattibhum, who earlier urged people to have discipline and responsibility to the public at large by refraining from illegal entry attempt.

Public transport in Chiang Mai tries to keept itself clean from the virus following the fresh infection cases.
Credit: Public Health Ministry

Infection challenges

Since the past two months, Thailand has witnessed various cases of infections aside from state quarantine reports, and border-related infections have become increasingly challenging public health authorities here.

According to Dr. Sophon Iamsirithaworn, Director of Communicable Disease Office, at least 9 Covid-19 infection incidents have been reported over the period.

-The first was the Burmese worker family of which its five members were infected with Covid-19 while in the border town of Mae Sod.
-The second case involved a French woman, who was under state quarantine in Samui Island.
-The third case was a Burmese labour found sneaking into the country through the Thai-Malaysian border.
-The forth was an Indian man, who was in search for a job in Krabi province. He had travelled to a number of provinces, raising concerns about local infections, but fortunately, all having contacted with him were tested negative to the virus.
-The fifth was a Korean military officer, who was found having been infected with the virus while in the meeting here.
-The sixth was a Hungarian minister, who was found having been infected with the virus since the first day of his arrival, prompting a quick trace to cases in Cambodia, where he had visited before leaving for Thailand.
-The seventh was a Burmese migrant in a refugee camp in the border province of Tak.
-The eighth was another Burmese woman sneaking into the country to take medical care.
-And the last case has involved the latest group of patients whose initial infections were from Tachilek before spreading locally.

According to Dr. Sophon, since the government decided to allow Thai nationals living abroad to return to the country, stringent measures including 14-day quarantine have been implemented strictly.
As the situation was under control, certain groups of foreign nationals were then also allowed, including those under the so-called Special Tourist Visa (STV).

Since April 3 to December 1, 163, 735 people have travelled to Thailand and undetaken state quarantine of various kinds (SQ, LQ, ASQ, ALQ, OQ and AHQ).

Of these, 1,044 people have contracted Covid-19, accounting for 0.64% of the total entries. 826 are Thais, while 218 are foreign nationals. Of these, 2 of them have succumbed to the disease, while 910 people have returned home already.

At present, around 700-800 people travel to the country per day, compared to 100,000 on average in the past, the rate which the ministry views as still being at a safe and controllable level, according to Dr. Sophon.

”But in the future, there are likely more people entering the country if vaccines are available. So, we need to prepare and equip ourselves with effective systems including proper entry as well as quarantine. Illegal entry poses a risk to the systems, so we need to help watch this out,” said Dr. Sophon at the conference this week.

Worldwide, infections of Covid-19 are still a worrisome as the cases continue to rise with 65 million cases reported today, and 1.5 million people have died of the virus. Top five countries with the highest infections are the United States, followed by India, Brazil, Russia, and France.

The world just witnessed the cases pass 50 million in mid last month, and one million deaths in mid-October, meaning the infections have increased rapidly with over 15 million infections only within one month.

Thailand, in the mean time, has recorded 4,072 cumulative cases, with 19 new cases reported. 3,848 of those have been discharged from the hospital, leaving 164 still under care. 60 have succumbed to the disease here so far.

Its two neighbours with high infection cases are Myanmar and Malaysia.