Thailand officials have begun testing tens of thousands of their citizens for the coronavirus a day after one of the most populous provenances in the nation went under lockdown. The lockdown occurred due to a massive outbreak of Covid-19 which stemmed from a shrimp market in Samut Sakhon.
Samut Sakhon is known in Thailand as the center of the country’s seafood industry. The province is located southwest of Bangkok, and is the home to thousands of migrant workers who depend on the markets being open to provide for themselves and their families. The outbreak is thought to have initially begun at a shrimp market in the province.
Last Friday four cases of Covid-19 had been reported and by Sunday there were over 680 cases. The public health ministry reported these numbers as soon as they got them due to the fact that the country has done a great job at keeping the pandemic under control overall; partially due to how rigorous they begin testing when an outbreak occurs.
Kiattiphum Wongrajit, the ministry’s permanent secretary, told a news conference that up to 40,000 people will be tested in Samut Sakhon and nearby provinces within the next few days; 10,000 are scheduled to be tested on Wednesday alone.
“Today is just the first stage, further results will show a lot more infections.”
Migrant workers began getting tested this past Sunday, so far most of the cases that have appeared have been asymptomatic. The market is currently shut down and all entrances are covered in barbed wire, additionally all schools in three districts that share borders with Samut Sakhon will be shut down until at least January 4th.
The province itself is also expected to remain under lockdown until then, as Kiattiphum believes they’ll be able to get this outbreak under control within two to four weeks. This is due to the fact that Thailand was the first country outside of China to report Covid-19 cases, so their process for outbreaks is efficient and organized.
Thailand has over 70 million residents, and of those only 60 died from the coronavirus due to these health and safety procedures. This makes Thailand the nation with one of the lowest coronavirus mortality rates per capita in the world.
Authorities in Bangkok are calling upon authority figures to step up their preventative measures, however, by avoiding gatherings, entertainment venues, restaurants, etc. These establishments have been able to reopen due to how minimal the damage caused by this pandemic has been for the nation.
Somsak Paneetatyadai is the president of the Thai Shrimp Association who claims that this new outbreak is “bad news” for shrimp exports; Samut Sakhon accounts for 30% of the world’s shrimp exports.
The surge in cases is supposedly due to Thailand’s efforts to revive their tourist industry and rebuild their economy. Last week the nation eased some of its restrictions to allow more foreign tourists in the country, and then the outbreak occurred, so only time will tell how much further the nation decides to loosen those restrictions.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.