After months of avoiding the surge in cases seen by its neighbours, Thailand has been hit by its worst Covid-19 outbreak yet. Tens of thousands of people are being tested after hundreds of cases linked to its biggest seafood market.
The province of Samut Sakhon, the coastal province near the capital Bangkok, home to the market which employs mostly migrant workers from neighbouring Myanmar is in lockdown.
Thailand was doing so well and had recorded a relatively low virus caseload since, with just over 4,000 cases and 60 deaths before this latest outbreak.
Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesperson for the COVID-19 coordinating centre, said Friday that 131 of the additional cases were local transmissions, 58 were migrant workers and 16 international arrivals.
That brought the country’s total to 10,834 including 67 deaths. Of this total, 5,367 cases were found from the start of the new surge, on 15 December until yesterday.
Infections have surged following months that saw only a handful of cases. Most of the new ones have been migrant workers from neighbouring Myanmar working in the seafood markets and factories in Samut Sakhon a province near Bangkok. Most were quarantined in their dormitories and established field hospitals.
The capital, with a metropolitan area population of about 15 million, recorded 327 cases in that period.
The government has tightened controls on domestic travel and ordered a partial lockdown around Thailand. Schools, bars, gambling parlours and other public gathering places have been closed, although malls, department stores and restaurants remain open with curtailed hours.
Meantime the struggling national carrier Thai Airways has reduced international frequency for the first quarter of 2021. A statement issued by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, reads, “THAI is operating a reduced flight schedule from now until March 27, 2021, during the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak and future demand.”
The reduction of frequency applies to the following routes: To Australia region, the carrier will operate one weekly return flight to Sydney. And catering to its connections in Europe, the airline will operate one weekly return flight each to Copenhagen, Frankfurt and London.
Within Asia Thai will operate one daily return flight to Hong Kong, while to Manila, Osaka, Seoul and Taipei will only operate one weekly return flight each.
Domestic flights in Thailand are scheduled to operate as normal, under a codeshare with its sister carrier, THAI Smile.
The airline has also received a one-month extension on submission of its business reorganisation petition to the Central Bankruptcy Court and will now have to make a submission on 4 February 2021.
Written by Joe Cusmano