Bangkok unveils measures to prevent Covid-19 spread after outbreak in nearby province

Schools in three districts in Samut Sakhon, Thailand, will be closed for 14 days from Dec 21. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, BLOOMBERG) - Bangkok has announced a raft of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus following an outbreak in the neighbouring seaside province of Samut Sakhon.

Schools in three districts that are in the boundary area of Samut Sakhon - which has been locked down - will be closed for 14 days from Monday (Dec 21). The schools must have a study plan and online teaching arrangements for their students.

Workers who commute to Samut Sakhon must stay at home and migrant workers entering Bangkok will be screened, said Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang late on Sunday.

The Communicable Diseases Committee has also listed these measures to prevent an outbreak in Bangkok:

- Entertainment establishments, pubs, bars, entertainment venues and establishments similar to entertainment venues will see more stringent preventive measures by prohibiting dancing or gathering of crowds. Table must not be less than 1.5m apart.

- Boxing stadium, which had seen an outbreak months ago, must be strict about people wearing masks and implement preventive measures, including limiting the number of visitors.

- Markets must emphasise on 100 per cent wearing of masks.

- People can visit public parks and temples wearing a mask.

The Bangkok administration has also asked for cooperation from every sector to refrain from New Year activities. Those who wish to organise events to celebrate the festive season must apply to the Bangkok Health Office with a strict disease control plan.

Thailand reported a record number of new Covid-19 cases on Sunday and locked down Samut Sakhon where infections have surged.

The health ministry said it will continue to aggressively search for infections in the province, a manufacturing centre and seafood industry hub. Migrant workers from Myanmar make up the majority of the 689 new cases.

"Migrant workers often board in rooms that are cramped and have many people living in close contact with one another," Permanent Secretary of Health Kiatiphum Wongrajit said at a news briefing on Sunday. He said the lockdown in Samut Sakhon is designed to ensure the virus does not spread to other provinces.

"If after our search we find that the infections have spread beyond the locations we've identified so far, we'll expand our search," Dr Kiatiphum said.

Thailand was the first nation to report Covid-19 infections outside of China. It has been relatively successful in containing the virus - the government has reported a total of 4,907 infections - and was betting on a tourism industry revival to pull the economy out of recession.

The cases reported on Sunday included two in Bangkok among people who shopped at the Klang Koong shrimp market in Samut Sakhon, according to Dr Opart Karnkawinpong, director of the department of disease control.

Samut Sakhon is home to about 6,000 factories and has the largest seafood market in the country, with daily auctions that draw traders from a wide area.

The province's lockdown is expected to be especially disruptive for food producers, including Charoen Pokphand Foods and Thai Union, according to Maybank Kim Eng Securities Thailand.

The health ministry has advised the nation's 1,580 fresh food markets, which attract throngs of shoppers, to enforce strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

The new cluster of cases was discovered after a local 67-year-old fish merchant was confirmed to have the virus last Thursday.

"She had no record of travelling, and was not the origin of the virus. We suspect she contracted it from migrant workers from Myanmar at the Klang Koong market," Dr Kiatiphum added.

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