Thailand Covid Outbreak May Result in Lockdown and Further Damage to Tourism Industry

Yesterday we reported on a new Covid-19 outbreak centred in Samut Sakhon that had already seen almost 1,000 new cases in three days.

A further 427 cases were reported today, 397 of which were migrant workers, the hardest hit group in Samut Sakhon. Cases have now started to appear elsewhere in Thailand, all linked back to the fish market where the outbreak is believed to have originated.

The number of cases in the immediate area could increase further as it is understood that the results of around 2,600 tests on migrant workers are still outstanding with a further 10,300 planned.

The outbreak is similar to those experienced in Singapore where migrant workers also lived in cramped, crowded conditions, helping the rapid spread of the virus.

The lockdown in Samut Sakhon could cause about 1 billion baht a day (approx £24.6 million or US$33 million) in economic damage according to Amphai Harnkraiwilai, the Chairwoman of the Samut Sakhon Chamber of Commerce.

The localised area around the outbreak has had a 14-day lockdown imposed on it but there are concerns that if the outbreak spreads further the lockdown may be imposed on a much larger area, possibly even country wide. Visitors to the market have been traced to 22 provinces throughout Thailand including Chiang Mai in the north of the country.

The Thaiger is reporting that Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has warned that a larger lockdown could be unavoidable if Covid cases increase over a wider area.

Meanwhile the Bangkok Post is reporting that The Public Health Ministry has been ordered to develop clear guidelines for locking down more provinces if the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.

Tourism Hit Again

The news comes as a blow to the Travel and Tourism industry who have been battling for most of the year to stay afloat.

Hopes of a slight increase in the numbers of foreign arrivals were boosted at the weekend when it was confirmed that travellers from 56 countries would no longer have to go through the Visa process.

Pattaya City have already confirmed that their New Year Countdown, which they had hoped would attract 300,000 people, has been cancelled amid concerns that they would be unable to control such a large crowd alongside Covid control measures.

Now the President of the Phuket Hotels Association, Anthony Lark, has voiced the concerns of many in the tourist industry by warning that another lockdown could be the “nail in the coffin” for many businesses.

“Everyone’s losing money and just trying to break even..” 

“If the government can’t control the virus, and any domestic air travel or inter-provincial travel restrictions are introduced, then you will absolutely see hotel, restaurant and boat owners mothball their businesses.”

“Bangkok weekend warriors have been propping up all supporting businesses.”

Anthony Lark, President phuket Hotels association President via Bloomberg

Hotels in Phuket have seen occupancy rates as high as 80% at times as domestic tourists fill the gap left by their international counterparts. Lark warned however that further restrictions “would be the nail in the coffin for so many businesses who were already booked and waiting for tourists from Bangkok.”

Main picture credit Mohigan on Wikimedia Commons

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