Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) gave details surrounding the visit by 31 military personnel to Rayong onboard an Egyptian military plane at the end of last week. He revealed that no less than 8 more other such excursions had been planned. The Covid 19 centre spokesman also gave details of a young girl, the daughter of a Sudanese Embassy attaché, who tested positive on Saturday last and was later diagnosed with pneumonia.
Thailand has cancelled all entry privileges for the diplomatic corps, state visitors and representatives of foreign business interests following a number of controversies and incidents that have emerged in the last 24 hours. It has also been announced that further trips, planned by military personnel in Egypt to Thailand and scheduled for later in July, have been cancelled after an Egyptian soldier tested positive for the virus on Sunday, hours after his party of 31 returned to Cairo on board an Egyptian Air Force military plane.
Thai authorities have announced the suspension of special entry concessions for diplomats and business representatives of firms with interests in Thailand, which had only come into effect on July 1st this year.
The news came at a press briefing on Wednesday given by Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) as he outlined the circumstances surrounding the controversial visit of an Egyptian military party to Rayong last week which has now resulted in up to 1,500 Thai nationals being requested to enter into home quarantine for 14 days and the closure of 10 schools in proximity to where the group stayed in Rayong.
The decision to suspend the arrangements means that, from now on, all diplomats and foreign representatives of firms in Thailand will be required to enter into the government’s alternative state quarantine scheme using hotels for 14 days.
9-year old daughter of Sudanese attaché found to be infected with the coronavirus in Bangkok
Dr Taweeslip gave details of a further incident involving an attaché to the Sudanese embassy in Bangkok who arrived in Thailand on Friday, July 10th, with his family including his wife and two children from Khartoum.
They arrived at 5.40 am in the morning and were brought to the One X apartment complex at 9.25 am where the family stayed in a unit on the 19th floor.
On Saturday, the 11th of July, the attaché was informed that a Covid 19 swab test carried out on arrival at the airport as they arrived in Bangkok, had come back positive for his nine-year-old daughter.
The family had arrived in Bangkok on board a Thai repatriation flight with 265 Thai nationals. The attaché’s wife had taken the couple’s two girls on July 7th for a medical assessment in Khartoum and they were given the all-clear to fly.
Girl transferred to the Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health after pneumonia diagnosis
The attaché immediately took his daughter to a local hospital and had a second test conducted. It confirmed the result.
The little girl was also, later that day, diagnosed with pneumonia and on Sunday the 12th of July, she was transferred to the Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health in Bangkok.
The incident has prompted an investigation of the condominium building, the One X building, where the family initially stayed when they arrived in Bangkok on Friday morning.
The attaché and his family later moved to the Sudanese Embassy near the South Sathorn Road on Soi Suan Phlu.
70% of the apartment complex where the family stayed on Friday occupied by foreigners
Thai officials have found that 70% of the tenants of the One X condominium building, on Sukhumvit 26, are foreigners. Only 200 out of 329 apartment units are currently occupied.
Dr Taweesilp of the Covid 19 Situation Administration Centre explained that only 50% of the building’s occupants were found to be using face masks on the elevators in the building.
15 people notified they are at risk for not wearing a face mask in the elevator of the building
This has led to 15 residents of the building being informed that they are at risk while seven people, who were at close quarters with the young girl following the family’s arrival on Friday until the young girl was taken into care, have been deemed at higher risk.
This includes the attaché, his wife and the second daughter in addition to two airport van drivers, a limousine driver and a Sudanese embassy official.
All were tested on Wednesday for the virus.
8 further Egyptian military excursions cancelled by the Thai government after the debacle
Meanwhile, in response to revelations about the Egyptian military flight that arrived last week, Thai authorities have announced that similar excursions already scheduled by the Egyptian military for later in July have now been cancelled after this weekend’s debacle came to light.
These include no less than eight flights from July 17th to 20th and July 25th to 29th.
Dr Taweesilp laid the blame for the debacle squarely in the lap of the Egyptian Embassy in Thailand who should have ensured that those on the flight entered into Thai state quarantine.
The hotel involved was named as the D Varee Diva in Rayong City, a luxury hotel with an excellent reputation.
He said that, instead, they had booked their own hotel and also suggested that, initially, the group had resisted requests for testing by officials. They finally relented under pressure after the Egyptian Embassy was called on to intervene.
Thai government apologises to the public
The Covid 19 Situation Administration Centre spokesman apologised to the Thai public for the affair. Authorities were able to use the Thaichana check-in app to identify nearly 400 people at one local shopping centre and nearly 1,500 at the Central Plaza in Rayong who had visited the venues while the Egyptian group were present.
Some members of the public, reported to be up to one dozen, had simply left telephone numbers when entering the shopping centres.
All are being contacted and asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Schools in the immediate vicinity are also being closed as a precaution.
Only 10% of the Egyptian military group wore face masks while in public last Friday touring Rayong
Dr Taweesilp told the press that approximately 10% of the military crew wore face masks during their outing in Rayong.
The group was active in Rayong from 11 am on Friday until 6 pm in the evening. Ironically, the soldier who tested positive for the disease was observed from CCTV footage wearing a face mask.
Thai officials, on Wednesday, assured the media that no one from the military party ventured out of their hotel again after they returned that evening to sample the nightlife.
Officials say authorities expected the Egyptian to fly into Bangkok and use alternative state quarantine
He pointed out that Thai authorities had expected that the Egyptian military flight would land at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok and avail of the alternative state quarantine option at the Novotel Hotel.
This controversy and the unfortunate story of the Sudanese embassy official’s daughter has prompted Thai officials to suspend preferential waivers for guests of the state, the diplomatic corps and what the centre terms privileged people including business people with interests in Thailand.
There will also be new, revised regulations drawn up to avoid these situations reoccurring while the suspension is in force.
‘We are truly sorry for the incident in Rayong, where about 1,000 people are now at risk and about 10 schools must be closed,’ Dr Taweesilp concluded.