BANGKOK: Both the PM Prayut Chan ocha and Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnverakul, emphasised plans to integrate the response to the virus threat and have ruled out using emergency powers for now. Such powers may be required if the virus moves to Phase 3. Minister Anutin specifically denied any suggestion that he had advocated the use of the Internal Security Act against protesting students as reported on Sunday but did stand by his warnings to the student leaders that the gatherings were unwise and should be disbanded at this time.

As Thailand announced its 43rd coronavirus infection on Monday, officials including the prime minister and the Minister of Public Health were pressing ahead with more integrated measures to fight off the threat of the infection as three foreign passengers were detained on Sunday at Thai airports on suspicion of carrying the infection. Controversy has also arisen over claims that the 35-year-old man who died from the disease on Saturday was previously suffering from an underlying condition. An investigation into that death is now underway.

A more integrated approach was announced on Monday by both the Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha and the Public Health Minister Anutin Charnverakul (both inset right) as Thailand, despite announcing its first fatality on Saturday and its 43rd infection on Monday, is seen to be performing well in its defence against the deadly coronavirus Convid 19. On Sunday, Thailand’s Airports Authority announced that three foreign passengers had been detained for observation out of over 105,000 people screened as the country steps up its efforts even with preparation for a Stage 3 outbreak which has not yet materialised.

Thai officials are conducting a probe into the medical condition of a 35-year-old sales consultant who died on Saturday as a result of the Convid 19 coronavirus.

On Sunday, one of Thailand’s top medical experts, Dr Thiravat Hemachudha, the head of the Centre for Emerging Diseases at Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital appeared to take issue with an assessment by officials at the Ministry of Public Health that the patient who was initially reported to have been treated at a private hospital for dengue fever but was later moved to the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Nonthaburi province where he has confirmed to have the Convid 19 virus, had an underlying medical condition.

35-year old who died worked as a sales consultant

Thai authorities also reported on Sunday that the deceased patient had tested negative for the virus on February 16th but died as a result of intense organ damage caused during his fight against the infection. When the man died, he was virus-free.

The deceased man was a 35-year-old sales consultant who worked at a now-closed King Power duty-free retail outlet in Samut Prakan.

Expert insists he had Convid 19 from the beginning – ‘His two lungs were affected by pneumonia’

On Sunday, Dr Thiravat waded into the discussion and said this: ‘His two lungs were affected by pneumonia, which shows he caught Covid-19 from the beginning, not dengue fever. I think the Public Health Ministry probably made some inaccurate assessment of the patient’s conditions and diseases.’

Dr Thiravat also revealed that a nurse, who had treated the man, had later developed the Convid 19 infection which led to severe damage to her lungs even though she was lucky to recover from the virus.

The death of the man is currently being reviewed by medical experts on the Thai National Committee of Communicable Diseases.

Virus lodges itself at the bottom of the windpipe

Dr Thiravat gave a fascinating insight into how this virus works. He revealed that the reason that many patients do not test positive for the virus and may not even have symptoms is because it lodges itself deep at the bottom of the human windpipe.

The doctor warned however that, in this condition, people can still be spreading the infection.

‘Eighty per cent of Thai people who contracted the virus showed little or no symptoms but they can spread the disease,’ Sr Thiravat revealed.

43rd infection in Thailand

Thailand on Monday announced its 43rd infection.

A 22-year-old woman working with an already infected person tested positive for the virus.

The level of infection has remained relatively low compared to other countries and is being seen as an endorsement of the government’s approach to fighting the threat so far.

Prime Minister says no plans to widely use extended emergency provisions and powers for now

On Monday also, the Thai prime minister expressed his regret at the demise of the young man who had passed away from the disease in Nonthaburi at 6.25 pm last Saturday.

He also pointed out that the Thai government is not planning to use emergency provisions such as the Internal Security Act or has not moved to utilise certain powers which are part of Phase 3 plan to be deployed if the disease begins to spread dramatically as we have seen in some parts of the world including China, Italy, Iran and South Korea.

The PM said that an integrated approach would be announced in the interim. The focus now is to ensure the country has adequate medical resources to deal with the situation and that all precautionary steps are taken and resources are in place.

Focus on ensuring medical supplies and facilities

Thailand has also just announced extensive efforts and supply arrangements to have face masks supplied to medical centres and those in the front line of the fight against the virus as well as retail channels in controlled quantities. The country can manufacture up to 1.35 million units per day.

On Monday, the Public Health Minister, Mr Anutin, disclosed that he had held discussions with Chinese Ambassador to Thailand Mr Yang Xinto to allow for Thailand’s health service to buy treatment drugs from licenced parties in China to tackle the virus at advantageous terms. 

Mr Anutin said he pointed out to Mr Xinto that half of those being treated in Thailand are currently Chinese nationals.

Minister for Public Health denies he advocated any action against protesting students but stood by his  critical position on the gatherings

The Minister also denied reports that he had asked the government to use the Internal Security Act to ban public demonstrations currently being staged by students.

He underlined his support for freedom of expression principles but still defended his warnings on the existential danger of such gatherings.

People suffering from symptoms and in heightened situations should wear face masks

The minister also responded to reports that an American expert has advised that it is counterproductive for those not suffering from or infected by the virus to be wearing masks. The question has become topical after the minster’s criticism of foreigners some weeks ago for not wearing them.

Mr Anutin appeared to suggest that the government is advising people, who have symptoms, to wear the masks so as to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus.

He also said that they should be worn in congested areas as well as medical personnel. Similar guidance was issued also today by the prime minister.

US expert explains why universal face mask wearing can be counterproductive to people’s health

A report from Forbes magazine today was carried on Thai media which quoted Professor Eli Perensevic of the University of Iowa College of Medicine who points out that both masks and respirators are primarily effective at helping users contain their own secretions from external environments where others may pick up the virus if they are infected. 

The professor pointed out that they do not properly protect the users wearing the masks from the virus which he points out is not airborne.

The infection, while it primarily causes lung infections, must be picked by bodily secretions from an infected person and the main cause of this is by people picking up the virus on their hands.

Consequently, the best protection, according to the professor, is regularly washing hands particularly after using them on public surfaces or before and after eating.

People who need to use face masks should understand how to use them to stay safe from the virus

Professor Eli warns that anyone using respirators should ideally have training on how to use them as when discarding the masks, the user runs the risk of picking up an infection by hand.

The medical expert points out that the masks and respirators themselves can become an infectious hotspot, particularly as users tend to use their hands to manipulate them.

‘Just because it is a respiratory disease virus does not mean that it enters the body through breathing. It can enter the body when the contaminated hand touches your mouth or face. So wash your hands and don’t touch the mouth or face without first washing your hands,’ Professor Eli says.

Regular cleaning of hands is the best protection

Dr Karen Fleming of John Hopkins University in Maryland points out that the virus itself has an outside membrane which is destroyed when it comes into contact with soap-like substances. The act of cleaning hands with soap effectively kills the virus.

Heightened anti-virus efforts in urban areas

Thailand’s government enacted provisions on Sunday which give new powers to various authorities to control any spread of the virus.

The success of the country’s efforts so far can be seen in the number of people who are conscious of the threat at least in urban areas and the efforts by public buildings, malls and retail outlets which all have health checks on entry and signs urging people to regularly wash hands.

On Monday also, Thailand’s mint said it was taking the precaution of disinfecting all new coin currency or such money being returned through the banking system highlighting also the wider public another risk for them to be aware of.

Three foreigners detained at airports on Sunday 

The threat and danger that the country is facing can be seen by detention on Sunday of three travellers entering and leaving the kingdom through Thai airports who were taken to hospital on suspicion of carrying the virus.

The information was released by the Airports Authority of Thailand which also pointed out that nearly 106,000 passengers had been screened that day.

An Indian national arriving from Japan’s Narita Airport on an Air Asia flight with no outward symptoms such as a cough or runny nose was one of those held. With a temperature of 37.7 Celsius and coming from a high-risk country, he was sent to the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute for observation.

In Phuket, a German arriving from Singapore, another high-risk country, was taken to hospital after displaying coughing and runny nose symptoms as well as a temperature of 38.6 degrees celsius.

A 27-year old Japanese woman was detained at Bangplee Hospital after being ordered to be observed by officials at Suvarnabhumi Airport after she showed outward symptoms of the infection and registered a temperature of 37.1 degrees celsius.

Further reading:

Government adopts a carrot and stick approach to student protests with the first coronavirus death in Thailand

Ministry officials scramble to undo the damage of potential virus super spreader who lied to doctors

Tourism minister predicts higher temperatures will help to bring an end to the coronavirus threat

Thai health boss strongly warns against public protests or political gatherings at this critical time

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

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