On Friday afternoon a total of 107 Thais – 28 men, 76 women and 3 children, have crossed the border into Mae Sai district as the exodus from Tachilek in Myanmar continued. Five of those returnees have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.
The figure was higher than Thai officials were expecting. Their Myanmar counterparts had said earlier that only 59 Thais would be sent back to the country in the afternoon.
Of the 107 people who crossed, only 7 were returning legally. The others had crossed the border illegally to work at entertainment venues in Tachilek earlier. Those locations have since become COVID-19 hotspots as Myanmar grapples with the rapid spread of the disease.
Myanmar has recorded nearly 105,000 cases of COVID-19 — all but 800 of them since the start of September, and 2,200 deaths.
All of the Thais who entered the country on Friday came via the permanent border checkpoint at the second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge.
Maj Gen Narit Thavornwong, commander of the Pha Muang task force, led checkpoint officials and public health officials to receive the Thai returnees, who registered to return with the Thai-Myanmar Border Committee (TBC).
Thai media reported that Myanmar officials told Thai officials that five of the 76 women had to be separated from the others because they tested positive for the coronavirus. Myanmar health officials had said earlier that three women had tested positive for COVID-19.
Before Thai nationals began returning from Tachilek, legally and illegally, late last month, authorities estimated there were around 400 Thais in the town.
Narong Rotjanasothorn, the deputy governor of Chiang Rai, said TBC members from both countries had worked closely on the registration of people wanting to return to Thailand and procedures to pick them up at the bridge.
In addition to the infected people, Myanmar health officials reported that 13 people were at risk of COVID-19 infection, said the deputy governor.
Those who tested positive will be admitted to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital.
According to Dr Thaweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), as of Friday, the official count showed 49 cases in Thailand related to returnees from Tachilek, including 37 in Chiang Rai and five in Chiang Mai.
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