BANGKOK: Health authorities in Thailand on Monday said they had confirmed the country’s first cases of the Indian variant of the coronavirus, in a Thai woman and her four-year-old son who have been in state quarantine since arriving from Pakistan.

The finding comes as Thailand battles a new wave of coronavirus that began at the beginning of April, originating in upmarket entertainment venues in Bangkok and spawning clusters in several crowded slum communities. Many of the recent cases involve the British variant of the virus, which is more infectious than the original form found last year.

Thailand banned travellers from India, other than Thai citizens, starting on May 1 in response to a massive outbreak of Covid-19 cases in the South Asian nation that began in early April. India has reported more than 22.6 million infections, second only to the United States, and more than 246,000 deaths. Both figures are widely believed to be undercounts.

Thailand extended the entry ban to foreigners visiting from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal on Monday in an effort to keep the Indian variant from spreading, Thai Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanee Sangrat said.

UAE bars travellers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka

Apisamai Srirangsan, a deputy spokesperson for the government’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said separately that Thai authorities were also worried about people who crossed into Thailand illegally, mostly from neighboring Cambodia and Myanmar.

Apisamai said the Indian variant was found in a pregnant 42-year-old woman who arrived on April 24 with three sons. She and her 4-year-old were staying in the same room under state quarantine. The two other sons, aged 6 and 8, stayed in another room and tested negative.

Thailand on Monday announced 1,630 new cases, bringing its confirmed total to 85,005 since the pandemic began. There were 22 new deaths, for a total of 421.

About one-third of the reported cases in the latest wave were found in Bangkok, where daily increases have declined to 565 on Monday from 980 on Sunday and a record 1,112 on Saturday.

New clusters continue to be discovered in Bangkok, not only in crowded communities, but also at markets and department stores.

Other clusters have been found among migrant workers at factories in two provinces near Bangkok.

In the eastern province of Chanthaburi, a gem mining centre, nearly 100 cases were found among African gem traders, the newspaper Thai Rath reported, citing the provincial health office. The governor this past weekend ordered the closure of gem and amulets markets, it said.

Amid the pandemic, the United Arab Emirates would from Wednesday suspend the entry of all travellers, including transit passengers, from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

The UAE, which is made up seven emirates, has already suspended flights from India, as coronavirus cases in the country spiked to global records.

The surge has spilled into Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Pakistan is also struggling to contain a third wave of infections.

Flights from and through the UAE and heading to the four countries will be exempt, the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said in a statement carried on state news agency WAM.

The GCAA said that those coming from the four nations through other countries must stay in those third countries for at least 14 days.

The UAE nationals and passengers in private jets are exempt provided they quarantine for 10 days and undergo PCR tests upon arrival and on the fourth and eighth days after entering the country.

Cargo flights will continue to operate between the UAE and the four countries.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2021


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