Thai PM urges calm as new coronavirus outbreak sees cases surge
From Panarat Thepgumpanat and Orathai Sriring
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's prime minister called for calm Monday, saying there were no immediate plans for another lockdown after 382 new coronavirus infections were confirmed. The majority is linked to the country's worst outbreak to date.
Of the new cases, 360 migrant workers were related to an outbreak at the fishing center in Samut Sakhon, a province near the capital Bangkok, where a lockdown has been imposed and thousands of tests have been carried out to contain and track the spread.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the government would monitor the situation for a week before taking any further action.
"Don't panic yet. We really hope everything will calm down in seven days," he told reporters.
"I don't want to go as far as other countries. This spread is understandable."
The seafood center-related infections rose to 821, most of them asymptomatic. According to health authorities, up to 40,000 people will be tested in and around Samut Sakhon.
Thailand had previously kept the epidemic under control as of this weekend, with only 4,300 confirmed cases and 60 deaths. This was one of the lowest numbers in the world, largely due to its previously strict entry and quarantine requirements.
Most of the new illnesses affected migrant workers from neighboring Myanmar, an important source of work for the Thai fish sector. In Myanmar, cases have risen to over 116,000 in the past few months.
"It is possible that Myanmar workers were hired during the epidemic, which led to the Myanmar community outbreak in Samut Sakhon," Wichan Pawan, a disease control officer, said in a briefing.
The main Thai stock index even fell 3.7% on Monday, while the baht fell 0.9% in morning trading.
Fourteen more cases were reported on Monday, all but one in Bangkok or the surrounding provinces, while eight cases were imported.
Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said a field hospital would be set up to test and treat migrant workers.
(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Orathai Sriring; Additional reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa; Editing by Martin Petty)
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