Thailand has reported more than 500 new coronavirus cases, the country’s highest daily tally.
The 548 new cases come after the country saw only a small number of infections over the past several months due to the strict border and quarantine controls.
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Health officials said 516 of the new infections were found in connection with the outbreak at the Klang Koong shrimp market in Samut Sakhon province, southwest of Bangkok. The new cases included migrant workers.
Those infections were linked to a 67-year-old seafood vendor at Klang Koong, who tested positive for the coronavirus earlier, director-general of the Department of Medical Sciences, Opas Karnkawinpong, said in a news conference on Saturday.
More than 90 percent were asymptomatic, he said.
The infections reported on Saturday bring the country total to more than 4,800 with 60 deaths in the country of 70 million – fewer cases than any country with such a large population except Vietnam.
The majority of the migrant workers in Samut Sakhon are from Myanmar, which has suffered a far worse outbreak of coronavirus than Thailand, where health authorities credit early action with limiting the spread of the virus.
“While there is a likelihood of finding more infections in crowded foreign communities around the shrimp market, they are low-risk groups because they are working age and healthy,” Opas said.
The province was ordered closed until January 3 and put under a 10am to 5pm curfew.
Samut Sakhon Governor Wirasak Wichitsaengsi said the number of infections was more than expected, “making it necessary to raise control measures to quickly stop the rapid spread of the epidemic”.
Thailand is among the world’s 10 biggest shrimp exporters.
Nearly 1.9 million Myanmar workers were in Thailand officially in 2019. Another recent outbreak was traced to people who crossed the porous border illegally.
Myanmar has registered more than 115,000 coronavirus cases and 2,424 deaths.
Other Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore and Malaysia, have also reported thousands of cases among migrant workers.
The surge in cases in Thailand comes just as it is seeking to revive the tourism industry that has been devastated by the epidemic.
On Thursday, it eased restrictions to allow more foreign tourists to return.