The Department of Disease Control (DDC) has announced that all provinces in Thailand are free of COVID-19 and there is no longer any need for quarantines after internal travel.
Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, chief of the DDC, played down fears over recent cases in the North, saying that the department has tested 4,469 people in the region and found that only two from a high-risk group had contracted the virus.
Widespread testing was carried out after a group of nightclub workers in the Myanmar town of Tachileik were found to be infected after illegally entering the country late last month.
“Aggressive action by public health staff and administrative officers in those provinces was very effective. All those who came into contact with the patients have been contained, so the outbreak will go no further,” he said.
“Now those seven provinces are safe, people can travel anywhere. But don’t forget to wear a mask at all times,” he said.
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According to the department, the infected illegal entrants from Tachileik stayed in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Bangkok, Phayao, Pichit, Ratchaburi and Sing Buri provinces. There have been 49 positive tests among arrivals from Tachileik, with 30 found during quarantine, 17 among illegal border crossers and two cases of local infection.
A total of 107 Thais – 28 men, 76 women and 3 children, crossed the border into Mae Sai district yesterday afternoon as the exodus from Tachileik continued. Only 5 of those who returned have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.
The number of returnees was higher than Thai officials had been expecting. Their Myanmar counterparts had said earlier that only 59 Thais would be sent back.
Of the 107 people who crossed, only seven were returning legally. The others had crossed the border illegally to work at entertainment venues in Tachileik, which has since become a COVID-19 hotspot as Myanmar grapples with the rapid spread of the disease.
Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, the spokesman for the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), also insisted that the situation is under control, adding that the government has never advised those returning from visits to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai to undergo quarantine after some companies mandated the procedure for employees.
“I understand the panic at first, but we must not overreact. There is no need for a 14-day quarantine. It would be better to continue to insist on the wearing of face masks at all times to prevent any further spread of the disease,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sathit Pitutecha, deputy minister at the Ministry of Public Health who launched a “Big Cleaning” disinfection campaign in Chiang Mai yesterday, said that five infected people from Tachileik town are now under medical supervision and as long as there are no further cases of coronavirus, the alert level in the province would return to normal on 14th December.