Thailand has 3 new coronavirus cases, urges travel disclosure

Health minister discourages travel abroad, saying ‘It could be your last holiday.’

Commuters wearing protective facemasks amid fears of the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus wait to board a boat on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok on Tuesday. (AFP photo)

Thailand has confirmed three more novel coronavirus cases, taking the country’s total to 40, and authorities criticised one of the patients for denying a trip to Japan and said the country will step up efforts to contain the disease.

Two of the new patients, all of whom were Thai nationals, had returned from vacation in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido and came into contact with the third patient, an 8-year old boy, said Sukhum Kanchanapimai, permanent secretary for public health.

The male patient had not disclosed his travel history when he first sought medical attention and risked becoming a super-spreader, an incident of large transmission from a single source, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said.

“We have to criticise this case … it creates a lot of trouble for us,” Mr Anutin said.

The patient came to the hospital on Feb 23, but did not disclose his travel history until the next day, B.Care Medical Center said in a statement.

The patient came into contact with 30 medical personnel at the hospital, who later tested negative for the virus and are in self-quarantine at home, the statement said.

Passengers, cabin crew and students in the boy’s class were all being tested, officials said.

At the same time, there’s no widespread community transmission of the disease in Thailand yet, Dr Sukhum of the health ministry said.

Travel risk

Public Health Ministry officials will be prohibited from travelling to risky countries, he added. If travel is required, personnel are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

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

Mr Anutin said that Covid-19 has been classified as a dangerous communicable disease. Under the change, anybody with suspect symptoms after visiting a high-risk country must report to the authorities within three hours.

In an earlier Facebook post, Mr Anutin said Thailand has detected more suspected cases and groups at risk of contracting the disease, as well as infections from travellers returning home after visiting high-risk countries.

“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.”

Returning travellers must report where they went to disease control officers stationed at airports, he said in the Facebook post, adding people shouldn’t conceal symptoms as that could cause the virus to spread.

At the briefing, the health minister again discouraged Thais from unnecessary travel. “For the airlines, please reduce promotions,” Mr Anutin said.

“Even though tickets are cheap, it could be your last holiday.”

Interactive map of virus spread: