Chiang Mai panics after woman evades quarantine, spreads COVID-19

Workers disinfect the Central Festival Chiang Mai shopping mall Saturday after a COVID-19 patient visited the shopping center three days earlier. Photo: CentralFestival Chiang Mai / Facebook
Workers disinfect the Central Festival Chiang Mai shopping mall Saturday after a COVID-19 patient visited the shopping center three days earlier. Photo: CentralFestival Chiang Mai / Facebook

People who have visited certain Chiang Mai venues are advised by health authorities to quarantine for 14 days after a number of people have contracted COVID-19 from a 29-year-old woman who entered Thailand from Myanmar illegally and did not isolate herself. 

At least two people who came into contact with the woman have tested positive for the virus and an estimated 300 are considered at risk after the unidentified Thai woman crossed into Chiang Rai province via Myanmar’s Tachileik border crossing in a public van on Nov. 23, evading mandatory two-week quarantine. She then traveled on to Chiang Mai.

There’s anxiety the woman could prove a “super spreader” since she did not report her return to the authorities and skipped state quarantine. Chiang Rai Gov. Prajon Pratsakul on Monday morning confirmed that two people were being treated at the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh Hospital after being infected by the woman.

Public health authorities Sunday confirmed that she visited several places in Chiang Mai during the past week. Those venues included popular attractions such as the CentralFestival Chiang Mai shopping center, Major Cineplex Chiang Mai and karaoke and host bar Kingsway. 

She went to Kingsway on Tuesday night and Major Cineplex late Wednesday afternoon.

CentralFestival Chiang Mai was closed Saturday for cleaning and disinfection. Shopping mall operator Central Pattana said staff who came into contact with the woman while she was there for nearly four hours on Wednesday starting just before 4pm were also asked to quarantine 14 days. 

According to health officials, the woman had been in Myanmar roughly a month before she returned on a public van and later developed symptoms including fever, diarrhea, headache and loss of smell. She tested positive for COVID-19 at Nakornping Hospital. 

Public health officials believe she contracted the disease in Myanmar, which has been grappling with a raging outbreak since August. It reported 1,500 new cases on Sunday and 31 fatalities.

Thailand has maintained a trickle of a few new cases every day, the vast majority of which are found in people returning from abroad. All those allowed to enter or re-enter the country must undergo two weeks of quarantine with some exceptions for foreign dignitaries and military.

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