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Thai Government Locks Down Coastal Area as Covid-19 Cases Increase

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Thailand’s health department has reported a record number of new Covid-19 cases and locked the seaside province of Samut Sakhon near Bangkok where infections have surged.

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

Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang announced a raft of measures to contain the virus late on Sunday. Schools will be closed for 14 days, workers who commute to Samut Sakhon must stay at home and migrant workers entering Bangkok will be screened.

“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 doesn’t 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,” Kiatiphum said.

Virus spreading to Bangkok

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 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 Pcl and Thai Union Pcl, 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 on Dec. 17.

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

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