BANGKOK — Health officials said 548 new coronavirus infections were found in connection with the outbreak at Thailand’s largest wholesale seafood market.
All of the new infections – an unprecedented number – were linked to a 67-year-old seafood vendor who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier, Opas Karnkawinpong, Director-General of the Department of Medical Sciences said in a news conference broadcast to all TV channels on Saturday night.
About 90 percent of the patients did not display any symptoms, Opas said. He said up to 1,192 people working at the fish market were tested for the coronavirus after the vendor’s infection was discovered. A majority of the new cases are migrant workers, according to Opas.
“We are confident that this situation will be brought under control, since the outbreak is limited in its areas,” he said. “Even though we tend to find more cases among the residence quarters of foreign workers, an escalation in the outbreak remains low.”
People who have traveled to Samut Sakhon since Dec. 1 are also advised to isolate themselves and monitor for any symptoms.
Today’s case number is the largest figure ever recorded since Thailand first witnessed a coronavirus infection back in January. The previous highest daily count of cases was back in March, at 188. The discovery also shattered Thailand’s unique feat of having near-zero local transmissions since the epidemic subsided in May.
Samut Sakhon Governor Veerasak Vichitsaengsri said a number of venues will be closed down across the province in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, including shopping centers, schools, nurseries, gyms, and sport stadiums.
“The situation is certainly more severe than many of us had thought,” Veerasak said at the news conference.
Convenience stores will be shut down from 10pm to 5am, and restaurants will not be allowed to offer dine-in services, except in hospitals and hotels. Samut Sakhon residents are also “requested” to refrain from traveling from 10pm to 5am, though Veerasak did not outright declare a curfew.
He added that voting in local elections for Samu Sakhon will still go ahead as planned on Sunday , but facemasks must be worn at all times at the polling stations.
“We understand that the measures will cause great inconvenience to the people of Samut Sakhon,” Veerasak said. “But they are necessary to ensure we can all overcome this together.”
“Alien nationals,” a term that typically refers to migrant workers, will also be banned from entering or leaving Samut Sakhon, he said.
The sprawling wholesale market at the epicenter of the latest outbreak is home to a large community of migrant workers, most of them from Myanmar.
Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said earlier this week the migrant workers might have been responsible for transmitting the virus to the 67-year-old vendor, though without providing specific evidence.
Thailand currently has about 4,300 total number of coronavirus infections, most of them having already recovered. Officials said 60 people have died because of the virus.