Influx of infected Thai border crossers raises alarm, but no sign of outbreak

A file photo of health officials inspecting a Bangkok bar. Photo: Department of Disease Control / Facebook
A file photo of health officials inspecting a Bangkok bar. Photo: Department of Disease Control / Facebook

Six more women infected with the coronavirus have entered the country illegally from Myanmar at the same border crossing as four others, making for 10 such crossings since Saturday.

Six new cases reported Wednesday that were detected in five provinces – Chiang Mai, Payao, Pichit, Ratchaburi and Bangkok – were all traced back to the same Mae Sai, Chiang Rai, crossing from the Tachileik district in Myanmar’s Shan state, according to Sophon Iamsirithavorn of the Communicable Diseases Division. 

All of the women, who are young and possibly work in the sex industry, evaded mandatory 14-day state quarantine through what appears to be a coordinated trafficking network.

Among the latest six arrivals was a 21-year-old woman who sneaked into Chiang Rai from Myanmar on Nov. 28 and flew the same day to Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport. She tested positive for COVID-19 at a hospital in the capital’s southeastern suburb of Bang Na. 

The 10 women, all Thai and between 21 and 36, have prompted health scares and venue closures, but so far there is no evidence of a related outbreak and no related infections. 

Nearly all of the confirmed new daily infections – 17 of 18 reported Wednesday – are found in fresh arrivals sequestered in state quarantine.

Nonetheless, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul on Tuesday asked the authorities to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.

Since Monday, false information has spread online, particularly via private Line chats, that Chiang Rai province will ban travelers from other provinces on Friday, given that it was the point of entry for all the women. Chiang Rai officials denied there are any additional travel restrictions and stressed that they’re doing their best to impose strict COVID-19 containment measures.

Responding to the alarming COVID-19 cases, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said at the Government House this morning that more CCTV cameras should be installed at border crossings, including at uncontrolled crossings.

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