Dr Thanarak also said that if the situation continues to worsen in Italy, passengers from that country may also have to be screened. He again reiterated that the Thai government, at this point, has no plans to curtails flights or arrivals from anywhere.

Thailand’s Deputy Director of the Disease Control Department at the Ministry of Public Health, Dr Thanarak Plipat, on Saturday, warned any political protest organisers in the country off organising events or any activities that may bring large numbers of people together. The call came as a protest was called for at Thammasat University on Saturday evening reported to have been attended by hundreds of people, mostly students.

The Director-General of the Disease Control Department at the Ministry of Public Health Dr Thanarak Plipat on Saturday left anyone planning political protests in the near future in no doubt that it was an activity fraught with danger to the public. His comments came as the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (inset), on Friday warned that the situation at this point can easily spiral out of control. ‘It could even get messy,’ he said as he warned that the window was narrowing to control the outbreak outside China. On Saturday, hundreds of people took part in a peaceful protest at Thammasat University following the dissolution of the radical Future Forward Party on Friday by the Constitutional Court.

The Deputy Director of Thailand’s Department of Infectious Diseases has warned those thinking of organising any protest rallies or gatherings to protest at the dissolution of the Future Forward Party that they should desist from such activity at this time.

He warned that there were other ways to vent their disapproval and that public health safety must now be an urgent priority overriding all other matters.

Health boss issued the warning on Saturday

Dr Thanarak Plipat made his comments on Saturday as he briefed the media on the current situation regarding the Covid 19 outbreak and Thailand’s efforts to keep the threat from the deadly coronavirus in check. 

Came as students at Thammasat University gathered in response to a ‘flash mob’ call spread online

His forthright comments came as a protest began at Thammasat University on Saturday evening with hundreds in attendance to protest at the decision of the Constitutional Court on Friday afternoon. The ‘rally for justice’ was organised online through social media.

The gathering was reported to be peaceful with some students burning incense in response to internet calls for a flash mob to attend at 5.30 pm. The protest was carefully monitored by Thai police, some of them in plain clothes.

‘The organisers must take responsibility for the health of people that are invited,’ Dr Thanarak warned. ‘If public health is the main issue right now, they should take a step back. If they don’t want to increase the risk, they should not organise it.’

Thailand is monitoring the situation in Italy

The health expert also told the press that Thailand was closely monitoring developments in Italy where a second person died on Saturday following the death of a retired bricklayer the day before in Lombardy. 

Italian authorities have now extended their lockdown to ten towns in Lombardy following the earlier lockdown of Codogno, a town with a population of nearly 16,000 people in the northern province of Lodi.

Passengers from Italy may be screened

The Thai official said that if the situation worsens there, then Thailand will add Italy to a list of countries where incoming passengers are being screened. This already includes passengers from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Singapore, Japan and South Korea.

The health boss again made clear that Thailand has no plans, at this stage, to halt flights or arrivals from any country in response to the virus outbreak.

Instead, passengers from targeted areas are being checked for body temperature and symptoms of the disease. Those found with suspicious symptoms are being placed under observation and tested.

Thai authorities have consistently rejected any claims of a cover-up and calls to close the kingdom’s borders

Thai authorities have consistently denied online rumours and suggestions that the current number of 35 infections is not accurate. 20 of these have already recovered.

Dr Thanarak pointed out that there are 1,252 people with pneumonia-like conditions under investigation, 246 of whom are in hospitals.

Thailand, well before the outbreak, was identified by the UN and other agencies as one the most well prepared and placed countries for counteracting and dealing with a virus outbreak of this kind.

The country rated 6th in the world and the best resourced in Asia given its well-equipped health services and organisational control throughout the kingdom. The UN list was topped by the United States, The United Kingdom and the Netherlands. 

At the end of last week, Thai officials were reported to be scouring the hospitals in provinces popular with Chinese tourists paying close attention to people with flu-like symptoms in an effort to ‘proactively’ detect further infections.

The situation in China still ‘grim and complex’

Meanwhile, China has reported lower numbers of new infections although the politburo of the Communist Party, which met on Friday, has warned that the crisis peak has not yet arrived. There are currently nearly 2,400 people reported to have died from this virus outbreak and 78,000 infections, 76,291 of which are in China.

There is also concern about what is still happening in Wuhan which the Chinese leadership still admits is ‘grim and complex’ as well as reported outbreaks of the virus in Beijing hospitals and up to 500 infections discovered in Chinese prisons. 

These new unexpected outbreaks have led to local officials and leaders being removed. Many observers are sceptical of Chinese figures and data because of alterations to the methods of defining the disease on a number of flagrant coverups we have already seen so far.

Hubei the province at the centre of the outbreak is still locked down with other cities also still facing harsh control measures.

World Health Organisation boss has grown more strident in his warnings about the virus outbreak

The Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Friday appeared to sound the alarm. He called on governments worldwide to approach the threat for this virus as a ‘very, very serious’ one.

In the last few weeks, he has talked of a window of opportunity to control the epidemic and declared emergency outside China. On Friday he warned that the window was narrowing. ‘This outbreak could go in any direction. It could even be messy,’ he warned.

Further reading:

Future Forward Party dissolved – leadership banned from politics by Constitutional Court order

Virus threat still acute with 35th infection in Thailand while China’s death toll ticks ever higher

Tourism minister gets real about tourism – arrivals down by 50%, pushes late night opening hours

Bombshell from China as deaths and infections surge linked with a lack of virus test kits in Hubei