BANGKOK: The Minister expressed his disapproval at the actions of a 65-year-old grandfather who lied to officials at a Bangkok medical centre on Sunday when he was admitted suffering from virus symptoms but failed to disclose that he had returned from Japan on Thursday. His lie has caused up to 30 of the hospital’s staff to be quarantined and a scramble by officials to track down his contacts and those in contact with members of his family, two of whom have also contracted the virus.

Thailand’s Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, on Wednesday asked the Thai public to put off foreign travel where possible and urged airlines to cut back on recent lower fare offers being pushed to stir up the battered travel trade. His warning to would-be travellers was stark: ‘Even though tickets are cheap, it could be your last holiday.’

On Wednesday, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul urged the Thai public to avoid foreign travel if at all possible and reminded them that they had a duty to disclose travel to high-risk countries on returning to Thailand. He also appeared to discourage the growing trend this week towards airlines cutting fares to lure new customers to travel in response to lower demand from travellers. The minister said that Thailand was preparing for all-out war against the virus after Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha (inset) on Monday confirmed that the government was prepared to introduce sweeping emergency powers in the event of a third stage outbreak occurring in Thailand. The PM emphasised that this was precautionary.

The comments come as Ministers Anutin revealed that the government is getting ready to launch an all-out war against the Convid 19 virus. Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha revealed that sweeping and strict emergency powers are ready to be used if a third stage outbreak emerges.

In the last two days, Thailand’s number of infections has risen to 40 although there are still no fatalities from the virus in the kingdom.

Three of these new cases are linked to a Thai man who lied to officials at the BCare Medical Centre in Bangkok’s San Mai district on Sunday.

Government prepared for war against the virus

The Minister for Public Health has told the media that the government is now preparing for a war to fight the Convid 19 virus as 5 new cases of the deadly viral infection have emerged in recent days.

The minister has warned any member of the public who is travelling that they have a duty to report if they have been to any high-risk country when they reenter the kingdom or when questioned by health officials.

At present, those high-risk countries include China, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore and Iran.

Minister guides the public away from foreign travel at this time – ‘We are entering a full war with Covid-19’

He also urged the public to avoid foreign travel at this present time. ‘Those who are planning to travel abroad in this period, if it’s possible to avoid that, please avoid it,’ Mr Anutin said. ‘We are entering a full war with Covid-19,’ he told the media.

65-year-old man provokes both alarm and anger

The move comes as the case of a 65-year-old Thai man who arrived home to Thailand with his wife on Thursday from Hokkaido in Japan has prompted both concern and anger at the man’s actions.

On Sunday, he reported to the BCare Medical Centre in Sai Mai Bangkok with a chest infection and cough. He told medical personnel treating him that he had not been abroad and on this basis was diagnosed with pneumonia.

However, on Monday, he admitted to a doctor examining his case that he had lied the day before.

On that basis, a test for the Covid 19 virus was ordered and he was found to be carrying the disease. His condition at present is described as quite serious.

Came into contact with 30 people in hospital

The man came into contact with up to 30 people at the hospital and officials feared that he could have become a super spreader.

His wife and grandson are both now confirmed to have contracted the virus. Thai authorities are now urgently tracking down people who have come into contact with the man’s family.

School in Don Muang closed down

These steps led to the closure of a school in the Don Muang area of Bangkok on Tuesday with Department of Disease Control Personnel turning up to screen those who had been in contact with the man’s granddaughter who is a pupil.

After 11 teachers and 30 students had been sent home, the school was cleaned down and disinfected. It was a similar story at a local branch of Thanachart Bank where the man’s son works.

WHO boss advises governments to be ready and prepared for a potential worldwide pandemic

The Director-General of the World Health Organisation this week said that despite the current situation, including outbreaks and deaths in Iran, Italy and South Korea which appear to be gaining ground, there was still not a severe or uncontained transmission.

However, he added that there was a distinct possibility that this current epidemic could develop into a pandemic. 

Speaking on Monday, the WHO boss said this: ‘For the moment we are not witnessing the un-contained global spread of this virus. Furthermore, we are not witnessing large scale severe disease or deaths from the Covid-19 coronavirus. Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.’

Thai PM cations public not to panic

On Monday, the Thai Prime Minister confirmed that Thailand was preparing for a third stage outbreak of the virus similar to that seen in Italy and South Korea.

He cautioned that he did not wish to stir panic and that everything was still being done to avoid that situation developing in Thailand.

Sweeping powers are ready to be used

However, he explained that this is why a key government committee in Thailand in recent days designated the Convid 19 virus officially as a dangerous disease.

This means that the government is now in a position to introduce sweeping emergency powers allowing people to be forcibly quarantined or to detain those found to be infected with the disease or people who are a danger to others.

The powers would also oblige landlords and accommodation owners to notify authorities within 3 hours of any suspected cases.

Power to close markets and all public gatherings

Thai authorities will also be empowered to issue closure orders to public markets, places of public entertainment and other places of public assembly as well the power issue edicts instructing anyone or any organisation to cease any activity likely to assist the spread of the virus.

Minister of Public Health has urged airlines to cub new low fare offers at his time to the public

On Wednesday also, the Minister of Public Health sent a message to airlines to scale back a trend in recent days towards cutting fares to lure passengers to stoke business activity badly hit by the downturn caused by the virus in the tourism industry worldwide.

‘For the airlines, please reduce promotions,’Mr Anutin said. ‘Even though tickets are cheap, it could be your last holiday.’

Guidance to the public in this heath emergency

The public is advised to seek out guidance from government agencies or official sources of information. Although advice differs worldwide, one key recommendation pushed is that those wishing to avoid the infection should wash their hands regularly and avoid facial contact with them.

There are currently over 81,000 infections worldwide with nearly 2,800 deaths. The startling development is that nearly 3,100 cases are now outside China. Thailand has 40 infections and zero deaths.

Further reading:

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