BANGKOK — The spokesman for the government’s coronavirus taskforce on Sunday asserted that Thailand is not experiencing a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, despite record-shattering spikes in case numbers over the weekend.
Although experts and government officials have warned in the past that a second wave is an expected scenario for Thailand, spokesman Taweesin Visanuyothin said the term cannot be applied to the outbreak in Samut Sakhon province, where over 500 people have been tested positive since Saturday, since they are considered a new cluster of infections.
“The first wave ended around May, without further cases, and this outbreak is not the continuation of the first wave. It’s a new outbreak,” Taweesin of the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration said at a news conference.
“We don’t use the term ‘second wave’ or ‘a new phase’ because our academic team has not yet identified [the current situation] as such,” he went on. “I’d like to confirm that the two outbreaks have no relations. This is a new outbreak.”
The spokesman, who is a doctor by trade, also insisted that the government is not enforcing a lockdown on the residential quarters of migrant workers in Samut Sakhon – even though security officers have sealed off the area and forbid any travel in or out.
“We don’t call it a lockdown. We use a new term, called loculated area, which means restricting them to stay in that area,” Taweesin said, adding that local officials are supplying the migrant workers with food and water.
Thai officialdom is notorious for playing down the scales of crises and masking them with euphemism, which in turn is routinely adopted uncritically by the national media. The Bangkok governor, for instance, famously insisted that rain floods in the capital were “water that awaited drainage” while a bloody crackdown on protesters in 2010 was termed as “a measure to ask for the [protest] area to reclaimed.”
Officials said on Sunday that they found 141 more cases linked to the country’s largest seafood market on top of Saturday’s tally of 548 cases. It was Thailand’s biggest daily spike, sending shockwaves through a country that has seen only a small number of infections over the past several months due to strict border and quarantine controls.
The new outbreak has been traced to a 67-year-old shrimp vendor at the seafood market.
Health officials say most of those who have been infected are migrant workers from Myanmar. The workers live close to the market in crowded accommodations, raising fears that the virus could spread exponentially.
Samut Sakhon is 34 kilometers (21 miles) southwest of Bangkok, the capital.
Samut Sakhon’s governor has imposed a night curfew and other travel restrictions until Jan. 3. Many public places in the province, including shopping malls, schools, cinemas, spas and sports stadiums, have been ordered closed.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.