Thailand, Sydney report big spikes in coronavirus cases

Thailand confirmed record 689 infections comprising mostly migrant workers, while the outbreak in Sydney has thrown holiday travel plans into chaos

BANGKOK: Thailand and Australia, two countries that had brought the coronavirus under control, are now reporting spikes in cases.

Thailand confirmed a record 689 infections yesterday, including 516 migrant worker cases announced the day before.

It has seen a total of 4,907 cases and 60 deaths. The new cases include 19 locally transmitted cases in Bangkok and in Samut Sakhon province, where the 516 infections were also found. All of them were linked to a shrimp market in Samut Sakhon, which is near Bangkok.

There were also 41 imported cases. The province was ordered closed until Jan 3 and put under a 10am to 5pm curfew.

By Wednesday, the authorities aim to conduct 10,300 tests in Samut Sakhon and nearby provinces.

"Active case findings will continue in several provinces, actually across the country," a spokesman for Thailand's Covid-19 task force said.

Most of the migrant workers in Samut Sakhon are from Myanmar, which has suffered a far worse outbreak than Thailand where health authorities credit early action with limiting the spread of the virus.

Australia's most populous city also saw a surge in infections. Sydney was isolated from the rest of Australia yesterday after all of the country's states and territories imposed travel restrictions on its residents as a coronavirus cluster in the city grew to around 70.

About a quarter of a million people in Sydney's northern beach suburbs where the outbreak occurred have been placed under a strict lockdown until Thursday.

Yesterday, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian urged people in the greater Sydney area to wear masks in public, although it was not mandatory.

Until this week, Australia had gone more than two weeks without any local transmissions and had lifted most restrictions ahead of Christmas.

The Sydney outbreak has thrown Christmas holiday travel plans into chaos.

The annual Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race starting on Saturday has been cancelled for the first time in its 76-year history.

The origin of the virus in Sydney remains unknown, although genome testing suggests it is a US strain. Australia has recorded around 28,100 infections, the overwhelming majority in Victoria state, and 908 deaths. - REUTERS