First Local COVID-19 Case in 100 Days Found in Jail


The day after passing the landmark 100 days in which Thailand has been free of locally transmitted coronavirus infections, the Department of Disease Control (DDC) on Thursday confirmed a new case of COVID-19, prompting the department to issue a warning to the public over social distancing and mask-wearing.

The patient was identified as a male inmate who tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after arriving in prison, where new inmates have to undergo quarantine for 14 days. He has since been moved from his prison to a hospital run by the Corrections Department.

Speaking at the Ministry of Public Health yesterday, DDC chief Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai said the department and its partners are urgently investigating the case to assess the risk posed by the inmate on the general prison population.

Asked if the inmate’s infection marks the onset of a second wave of the outbreak, Dr Wattanayingcharoenchai said a fresh outbreak is defined by two factors: discovery of infection and transmission of a virus.

He said the patient has been located and as for the transmission, the Public Health Ministry is looking to devise ways to control the spread of the disease by narrowing down people who may have come in contact with the patient.

“If all agencies and everyone help out, there will be no outbreak,” Dr Wattanayingcharoenchai said.

He urged operators of pubs, other nightlife entertainment businesses as well as sporting venues packed with people to strictly follow public health measures to curb the risk of another transmission.

“We were able to handle the outbreak before, and this is the first infection after 100 days without local transmissions,” Dr Wattanayingcharoenchai said.

According to the department’s initial investigation, the inmate was a DJ who worked at branches of Sam Wan Song Khuen, a pub and restaurant, on Rama III Road and Rama V Road as well as a coffee shop called First Cafe on Khao San Road.

He’s said to have lived with seven family members at the Ban Suan Thon condominium in Bang Mod area. They were regarded as an at-risk group by state officials. The rest of the family is currently being contacted by the authorities.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has ordered the closure of the pubs for three days for a cleanup.

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), yesterday confirmed the inmate tested positive for the disease.

The DDC identified the patient as a 37-year-old man imprisoned at the Central Special Correctional Institution on drug charges on 26th August, adding he was in the facility with 34 other prisoners and officials. The first test was said to be conducted by Mahidol University, which on Wednesday found the man to be infected and transferred him to the hospital that night. The tests on the 34 others returned negative.

The DDC collected a sample from the patient yesterday for a second test. It is to be done by the Department of Medical Science.