By Randy Thanthong-Knight May 31, 2021, 5:48 PM GMT+8

A series of new Covid-19 clusters have emerged in Thailand’s manufacturing sector, prompting factory shutdowns and losses to business and the economy.

From the biggest food conglomerate to the largest rubber producer, new infections among workers have forced companies to temporarily halt production for testings and disinfection. Charoen Pokphand Foods Pcl closed one of its plants after hundreds of workers tested positive for the virus, while Sri Trang Gloves Thailand Pcl shut two factories that account for about half of its daily production capacity.

These factory clusters are spread among several provinces, and have become the latest sources of new infections as the government, private businesses and ordinary citizens struggle to curb Thailand’s worst virus wave since the pandemic began. Since the resurgence began in early April, infections have spread from Bangkok’s night-entertainment venues into the capital city’s crowded communities, prisons and construction-worker camps.

“We need quick vaccination before the coronavirus outbreak devastates our manufacturing sector,” said Payong Srivanich, chairman of Thai Bankers’ Association. “Our economy can’t take another hit to the industrial sector, with exports being the only key growth driver now.”

With Thailand’s current pace of vaccine rollout restricted by limited supplies, it could until at least the end of this year for 70% of the population to be fully inoculated. Some 3.6 million doses of vaccines have been administered, only enough to cover 2.5% of the population. The slow deployment risks leading to more infections, threatening the government’s plan for economic recovery and tourism reopening.

“If many more factories are forced to be closed with more outbreak, exports will ultimately be affected,” Payong said, adding that demand for Thai products are rising as economies of many trade partners are recovering.

— With assistance by Anuchit Nguyen