Isolated Thai Villages On The Variant Found Amidst The Money Tone Vaccine Worry
BANGKOK (AP) – Thailand on Monday placed barbed wire and checkpoints in several southern villages along the Malaysian border after identifying a cluster of infections with a variant of the coronavirus that is believed to spread faster.
The lockdown came as Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha sought to assure the public that his government could handle a recent outbreak as it prepares to launch a nationwide vaccination campaign next month.
“Please understand that we can handle this,” Prayuth said as he received the second dose of his coronavirus vaccine.
Also on Monday, the agency managing the coronavirus response in Thailand reported 2,713 new cases and 30 more deaths. It brought the country’s totals to 132,213 cases and 806 deaths, the vast majority of them occurring since April 1.
Bangkok has reported 951 of the new cases, mostly clustered in inner city areas of the capital, said Apisamai Srirangsan, deputy spokesperson for the COVID-19 response center. Many of the cases in Bangkok have occurred in prisons and barracks for construction workers.
In the far south of Narathiwat province in southern Thailand, security forces have sought to isolate a dozen villages where the variant first discovered in South Africa was detected last week. The person infected with the variant is said to have crossed the border into Malaysia, which is also experiencing a coronavirus outbreak.
Thailand had previously said it found its first cases of the variant of the virus discovered in India, among infected construction workers in Bangkok. And a health official said last week that 87% of recent cases in Thailand came from a variant identified in Britain.
Health officials are concerned that the variants are more contagious and that some vaccines may not be as effective against the variants.
The largest cluster of infection was found in the Takbai district of Narathiwat, where proactive testing was ordered, according to the Narathiwat provincial public health bureau. He ordered a full lockdown of the entire district and affected villages from May 23 until further notice.
Thailand will begin its national vaccination campaign on June 7 and hopes to vaccinate 70% of the estimated 70 million people living in the country by the end of the year. It has administered 2.91 million doses so far, using vaccines from AstraZeneca and Sinovac in China.
Health officials have called on the government to diversify its vaccine purchases.
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