Thailand reports record virus cases; delays Bangkok easing

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People sit and wait after receiving the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine to be sure of no side effects in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, May 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

BANGKOK – Thailand is redoubling efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus in labor camps, factories and markets as the number of new reported cases surged Monday to the highest level so far.

A government spokesman said public health authorities met with labor and industry officials to discuss better ways to curb infections that are concentrated in crowded, high-risk places.

The government reported a record 5,485 new cases on Monday, with nearly 2,000 in prisons. Confirmed deaths increased by 19, bringing the total to 1,031 since the pandemic began.

Concern over the rising numbers prompted the government to overrule a plan by Bangkok’s governor to ease some pandemic restrictions in the capital, including the reopening of parks. The plan, which was to take effect on Tuesday, will be postponed 14 days.

Thailand had managed to keep outbreaks largely under control, at great economic cost especially for tourism, because foreign visitors were largely banned from entering the country. That changed in early April, when a cluster of cases centered on Bangkok bars and clubs spread as many people traveled during the weeklong Thai New Year holiday.

The total number of confirmed cases has now risen to 159,792, of which 82% occurred during the latest surge. Many of the cases are concentrated in prisons, housing for construction workers, factories, slums and low-income housing areas.

Last week, workers protested over conditions at the factory where they were working in Petchaburi, in central Thailand. Photos posted online showed workers quarantined in a big, empty building, with blankets laid in rows on a concrete floor.

The Cal-Comp Electronics (Thailand) factory, one of the largest suppliers of electronics to major companies like Western Digital, Seagate, Hewlett Packard and Panasonic, closed for 14 days beginning May 21 and as of Friday had reported 3,730 confirmed cases.