At least 10 Thai ministers, lawmakers self-isolate after COVID-19 contact

BANGKOK (Reuters) – At least 10 Thai cabinet ministers and dozens of lawmakers were self-isolating on Wednesday after coming into contact with positive coronavirus cases, amid a sharp increase in infections in the capital Bangkok.

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Transport Minister Saksiam Chidchob told local television on Wednesday he had tested positive for COVID-19, while his Bhumjaithai Party said other ministers, lawmakers and coalition politicians had been in contact with confirmed cases.

Thailand has seen infections jump in the past week, although numbers are still low in comparison to some of its regional neighbours, owing to more than a year of strict border controls, quarantine, testing and contact-tracing protocols.

Authorities recorded 334 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, with no new deaths, bringing Thailand’s case total to 29,905 and 95 fatalities.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha changed a weekly get-together of his 36-member cabinet to a virtual meeting on Wednesday and urged ministers to avoid exposure to the virus.

He said the public should exercise caution ahead of Thai new year celebrations next week, where crowds traditionally gather across the country.

The boisterous holiday tradition of hoards of people cramming into streets to hurl water over each other has been prohibited this year to prevent a major contagion.

Bangkok authorities earlier this week closed 196 entertainment venues in three districts of Bangkok for two weeks after clusters emerged where more than 250 people were infected with the coronavirus.

Thailand is aiming to start is mass immunisation campaign from June and has been vaccinating health workers or people deemed vulnerable, with more than 200,000 recipients so far, according to the Health Ministry.

Authorities are also carrying out vaccinations among the public in Phuket, a holiday hotspot, as part of Thailand’s calibrated reopening to foreign tourists.

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