Gov’t Virus Tally Now Excludes Figures From Samut Sakhon

People line up to take COVID-19 test in Samut Sakhon province on Dec. 23, 2020.
People line up to take COVID-19 test in Samut Sakhon province on Dec. 23, 2020.

BANGKOK — The government’s pandemic response center on Wednesday appeared to adopt a new policy of leaving out numbers of new coronavirus cases in Samut Sakhon in today’s news briefing.

The Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration reported only 46 new cases nationwide today, without mentioning how many were found in Samut Sakhon province, where at least 1,000 cases were discovered in recent days.

Center spokesman Taweesin Visanuyothin did not say why the latest update from the province was excluded in the briefing, though he said it will be reported at a later time.

“We’re not going to report the number of cases we found during active case-finding operations among the migrant workers. It now stands at zero at the moment,” Taweesin said. “There are a number of reasons we have to discuss further.”

Read: Outbreak Dashes Last Hopes for Year-End Tourism, Festivities

The Thai government has been struggling to maintain its reputation of having near zero local transmissions for months – a feat routinely touted by the government as its prized achievement.

Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul on Dec. 18 said he ordered the authorities to “close the case” of the new outbreak within one week – an apparently impossible task, while other public health officials insisted the massive case spike does not count as a second wave of the outbreak.

Over the past few days, confirmed infections in Samut Sakhon were released to the media by provincial governors or local health officials, not the central government, who reported those cases much later.

People line up to take COVID-19 test in Samut Sakhon province on Dec. 23, 2020.

That practice may soon change. In today’s news briefing, Taweesin said he has requested Samut Sakhon’s provincial authorities to submit reports of new coronavirus cases to the health ministry before passing them on to the public.

“You can still hold a press conference, but please submit the data to the health ministry’s epidemiology bureau first,” Taweesin said. “We want this database to be as accurate as possible.”

He also urged fellow Thais to show compassion for migrant workers who are currently placed under quarantine in Samut Sakhon.

“We’re brothers and sisters, no matter if they’re legal or not,” Taweesin said before signing off. “We’re all on the same boat. They’re here to help drive our country’s economy. They’re helping us since Thais don’t do jobs they’re doing. Please understand and help take care of each other.”

As of Tuesday, the country’s cumulative case of infection now stands at 5,762, with 60 deaths. The latest fatality was reported in November.