The outbreak in Samut Sakhon is the most serious development since the coronavirus crisis began in Thailand. Officials are now scrambling to contain the disease outbreak with fears that it could get out of control. The alarm was raised in Samut Sakhon on Wednesday when a local shrimp trader, a 67-year-old woman, tested positive for the disease which was later confirmed to have spread to her extended family. A screening and trace programme was then ordered by the Public Health Minister, Mr Anutin Charnvirakul. This has led to the detection of hundreds of cases among migrant shrimp workers mainly from Myanmar. The hope is that it may still not be too late to contain the spread of the virus outside the area. Officials are said to be worried about the high population density of the locality near the shrimp market in Samut Sakhon which is believed to be the locus of the outbreak.
Public health and provincial officials in Samut Sakhon province have introduced emergency lockdown measures in the seaside province adjacent to Bangkok after the number of cases of Covid 19 skyrocketed on Saturday and continues to grow as officials screen migrant workers working in the shrimp industry and linked to a large shrimp market in the area. Officials have confirmed that 548 people have already tested positive for the disease but this is expected to rise as efforts continue to screen all workers and simultaneously close off the province to prevent the outbreak from spreading further.
The province of Samut Sakhon near Bangkok has been placed under immediate lockdown measures ordered by local provincial officials after consulting with the Department of Disease Control on Saturday.
Government agencies have been quick to share the information openly and transparently with the public.
Dr Opas Karnkawinpong of the Department of Disease Control with the Public Health Ministry gave a live interview on TV on Saturday night.
‘The rate of infection is 43% from tested people and 90% of them are asymptomatic,’ he said referring to the screening and testing campaign ordered by the Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul. The public health official appealed to people in the province to stay put and not to visit areas outside Samut Sakhon at this time.
It is understood that restricted access measures to the province and the infected locality are already being put in place as officials iron out the details.
Nucleus of the outbreak is a shrimp and seafood market in Samut Sakhon province near Bangkok
The nucleus of this outbreak is the province’s thriving and famous shrimp market and associated industry which employs thousands of migrant workers mainly from Myanmar who form the overwhelming majority of those who have, so far, tested positive, in the last 48 hours.
At least 548 confirmed Covid 19 cases
In the dramatic development in Samut Sakhon province, in central Thailand adjacent to Bangkok on Saturday night, it has already been revealed by Thai officials that at least 548 local cases of Covid 19 have been detected after authorities began screening foreign workers in the province for the disease within the previous 48 hours.
67-year-old shrimp seller tested positive
That move followed the positive test on Wednesday last of a 67-year old woman, a Thai shrimp trader at the Talad Klang Kung, or Central Shrimp Market in Samut Sakhon. The woman fell ill on Sunday last, the 13th December and among her flu-like symptoms also was a loss of smell.
Close relatives, who lived with her, including her 95-year-old bedridden mother, also tested positive.
Minister reassured the public but ordered a large track and trace effort which has detected the infections
In recent days, the Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul has reassured the public that the situation was under control and not something to worry about. He ordered the test and trace regime to cover all those working at the market including the migrant workers.
On Saturday evening, it was disclosed that 516 migrant workers had been found to be infected or 43% of 1,192 screened.
Sources, at that point, suggested that up to 5,000 people had already been screened in what is an ongoing operation.
Lockdown measures quickly introduced as 90% of those confirmed to be infected show no symptoms
Officials from the Ministry of Public Health and provincial authority have moved quickly to introduce lockdown measures within the province to counter any potential spread of the disease.
There is concern that the area immediately surrounding the market in Samut Sakhon has a high concentration of population with several foreign communities and a large number of migrant workers.
Appeal to visitors to the shrimp market from outside Samut Sakhon in recent times to exercise caution
Officials are sending out urgent appeals to anyone from outside Samut Sakhon who has visited the shrimp market and who has shown symptoms of a cold or those known to be associated with the Covid 19 virus, that they should isolate themselves from others and visit a hospital.
Dr Opasakarn Kawinpong, the Director-General of the Department of Disease Control, has told the media that decisive steps would be taken to control the spread of the disease and limit the possible extent of this outbreak.
Governor orders lockdown measures
The Governor of Samut Sakhon, Mr Weerasak Wichit Sangsri, has confirmed that the province has suffered a large outbreak and pointed out that officials had warned of the possibility of a second wave of the virus for the area, in recent times, while the province had not seen a case for 250 days.
Restricted access in and out of the province
He has announced restrictions to be put into place immediately from Saturday 19th December until January 3rd 2021.
This means that there will be restricted and limited access to the province with special measures in place for those who live in the locality.
Residents are also being asked not to leave Samut Sakhon at this time.
The provincial authority, he said, had ordered the temporary closure, during this period of sports facilities, boxing stadiums and schools.
Convenience stores to close early
There were also reports, on Saturday night, that restaurants and bars will also be closed with only takeout food being allowed.
Convenience stores have also been ordered to shut their doors from 10 pm at night until 5 am in the morning.
It is understood that officials are finalising the controls being put in place with tracking and testing operations, ordered in the last 48 hours, still underway amid efforts to control the extent of the outbreak.