Fresh COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand hits most Myanmar workers

Hundreds of COVID-19 cases in five Thai provinces where many Myanmar workers live and work have been traced back to a shrimp market in Mahachai in the Samut Sakhon Province of Thailand, according to the Myanmar Workers Protection Office.

The Central Shrimp Market is one of the largest wholesale markets in the country, where wholesalers and retailers from other provinces stock up on shrimp. The market mainly employs workers from Myanmar, with only 10 percent of the labour force there of Thai nationality, according to the Thai Public Health Ministry.

The market has been identified as the epicenter of a fresh outbreak of the virus in Thailand and was shut down on December 21. “But COVID-19 has already been locally transmitted in five nearby provinces and 90 percent of those who have contracted the virus would be Myanmar workers,” said an official from the office. The virus has spread to Bangkok, Samut Prakan, Ratchaburi, Suphanburi and Nakhon-Pathom provinces.

The Samut Sakhon Provincial Administrator has warned that the whole province will be monitored and restrictions put in place over the next 14 days, resulting in some factories and workshops having to close. The authorities are also anticipating problems for the Myanmar migrant workers affected.

Thai authorities were put on alert and commenced inspections at the Mahachai seafood market when a 67-year-old Thai vendor who opened her shop for business at the market from December 1 to 13 was taken ill. She tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting a private hospital to seek treatment on December 17.

The woman’s family members as well as all the other vendors at the market and residents who live within its vicinity were tested by the Thai government on the same day. These included the Myanmar migrant workers and their family members. A total of 820 people had tested positive in Mahachai as of 10am on December 21.

Since December 20, Myanmar migrant workers living and working in Samut Sakhon Province have been warned not to travel unnecessarily and that violators will be fined up to 20,000 baht, jailed, or both.

The Thai authorities are testing 10,000 Myanmar workers and the number will increase to 40,000 in a bid to contain the outbreak within the province. The authorities are expecting more positive cases to emerge as a result, according to Thai media.

Source : Myanmar Times