Thailand on Monday placed thorns and checkpoints in several villages south of the Malaysian border on Monday after identifying a cluster of infections with a variant of the coronavirus that is believed to spread more quickly.
The closure came as Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha tried to reassure people that his government could handle a recent increase, as a national vaccination campaign is scheduled to begin next month.
Also Monday, the agency that manages Thailand’s coronavirus response reported 2,713 new cases and 30 more deaths. It raised the nation’s total to 132,213 cases and 806 deaths, the vast majority of which occurred since April 1st.
Bangkok reported 951 of the new cases, most grouped in inland districts of the capital, said Apisamai Srirangsan, a deputy spokeswoman for the COVID-19 response center. Many of the cases in Bangkok have been in prisons and housing barracks during construction workers.
At the southern tip of Thailand, Narathiwat province, security forces tried to isolate a dozen villages where the variant discovered in South Africa was detected last week. The person infected with the variant is believed to have crossed the border from Malaysia, which is also experiencing a wave of coronavirus.
Thailand previously said it had found the first cases of the virus variant discovered in India, among infected construction workers in Bangkok. And a health official said last week 87% of recent cases in Thailand came from a variant identified in Britain.
Health officials are concerned that variants will be more contagious and that some vaccines will not be as effective against variants.
The largest infection cluster was found in Takbai district in Narathiwat, where proactive testing was ordered, according to the Narathiwat Public Health Office. He ordered a complete closure of the entire district and the affected villages from May 23 until further notice.
Thailand will begin its national vaccination campaign on June 7 and expects to vaccinate 70% of the estimated 70 million people living in the country by the end of the year. To date, it has administered 2.91 million doses, using vaccines from AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac.
Health officials have called on the government to diversify its vaccine acquisition.
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