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World News

'Nothing to worry about' - Thailand seeks to ease fears of coronavirus return

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand sought to allay fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections on Thursday, after a woman tested positive having cleared quarantine nearly two months ago on returning from overseas.

A medical personnel performs a nose swab test on a local resident of a community in Bangkok, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Thailand, April 28, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

Thailand has gone 87 days without domestic transmission but news that a woman tested positive for COVID-19 in Bangkok on Tuesday, having returned from abroad on June 24, has triggered concern of a fresh outbreak in a country so far spared the level of contagion elsewhere.

Authorities said the woman was unlikely to be contagious and may have caught the virus in the United Arab Emirates or her home province of Loei, bordering Laos.

“She may have been infected in the past three months, probably in Dubai or Loei, but not Bangkok,” Taweesin Wisanuyothin, spokesman for the government’s COVID-19 task force, told a briefing.

He said the woman, 35, had tested negative twice since Tuesday and 24 people in contact with her in Loei and Bangkok would also be tested.

“There is nothing to worry about. She wears a mask all the time and is not sick anymore,” Taweesin added.

Thailand is fast returning to normalcy having recorded just 58 COVID-19 deaths and 3,389 cases since January, a figure less than 2% of the Philippines’ 178,000 cases, Southeast Asia’s highest tally.

Some Asian nations thought to have had outbreaks under control have seen a resurgence, including Vietnam, where cases have more than doubled since the virus reappeared in July after three months without community infections.

Fears of the virus returning rattled Thai markets, with stocks falling as much as 1.2% on Thursday and the baht slipping 0.6%, on concerns it could further hamstring efforts to revive an economy headed for a record annual contraction.

Surasak Leelaudomlipi, head of Bangkok’s Ramathibodi Hospital, said only traces of the virus were found in the woman and experts were “pretty sure” she was not infectious.

“To make society at ease, we found the genetic material of the virus, not a virus,” Surasak said.

Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Nick Macfie

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