BANGKOK — At least 38 new cases of coronavirus infection found in recent days have direct links to a group of Thai workers who crossed the border from Myanmar illegally, health officials said Monday.
Sophon Iamsirithavorn, director of the communicable disease division, said all of those cases – 15 of which were discovered today – were connected to Thai nationals who worked at 1G1 Hotel in Myanmar’s border town of Tachileik. Sophon also insisted the situation is not yet considered a new wave of virus outbreaks.
“We’re not at that level at the moment,” Sophon said. “Almost every patient was infected from the neighboring country. Those found in Thailand could be traced to the returnees and we found no further transmission.”
He added, “Therefore, this is not the second wave of infection.”
Hundreds of Thai nationals were reportedly employed at 1G1 Hotel. The hotel has been closed since Nov. 24, resulting in the influx of Thai workers heading home.
Read: Anutin: ‘Selfish’ Returnees Pose Risk Of Renewed Outbreak
Sixteen of the returnees managed to sneak across the Thai-Myanmar border, skipping quarantine and traveling on public transport to reach their home provinces, security officers said. They also reportedly flew with Nok Air, Thai Smile, and Thai Lion Air.
Twenty others entered the kingdom legally and were tested positive for infection in the state-run quarantine.
Most of the new patients were found in the northern provinces of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, which share a border with Myanmar.
Despite growing public anxiety over the recent discovery of these new infections, Sophon said only two domestic transmissions of the virus have been found so far.
Those two cases were a 28-year-old man who visited Chiang Rai province between Nov. 26 to 29 and a 51-year-old woman who had been in close contact with one of the infected returnees, according to the Disease Control Department.
Sophon also urged passengers who shared the flights with the Myanmar returnees to immediately go into self-isolation and monitor their symptoms for 14 days. They include flights DD8717 and WE137 on Nov. 29, and SL533 and SL545 on Nov. 30.
Despite the reassurance offered by health officials that the situation is under control, many potential travelers are said to be cancelling their trip to the northern region, a popular destination for Thais to enjoy the winter breeze.
Kitti Tissakul, an advisor to Chiang Rai Tourism Council, said 60 to 70 percent of this month’s bookings were cancelled, resulting in at least 10 million baht in lost revenues.
As of Monday, 179 coronavirus patients remain in hospitals across Thailand, while 3,868 patients have recovered so far. The country’s cumulative case number now stands at 4,107, with 60 deaths reported by the authorities.