Suvarnabhumi virus screening limited
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Suvarnabhumi virus screening limited

Airport authorities await advice from China on whether to screen all arrivals, as Beijing bans all group tours

An official uses a thermal camera at the arrivals hall of Suvarnabhumi Airport as a measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. (Reuters Photo)
An official uses a thermal camera at the arrivals hall of Suvarnabhumi Airport as a measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. (Reuters Photo)

Officials at Suvarnabhumi Airport say they are awaiting more information from Chinese authorities before deciding whether to expand screening of passengers arriving from China to try to detect the new coronavirus that is causing worldwide concern.

China, meanwhile, announced late Saturday that all group tours from the country would be halted starting from Monday in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus. 

President Xi Jinping warned that the country was facing a “grave situation” given the “accelerating spread” of the virus.

Thailand has seven confirmed cases in the outbreak, which began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Some 41 people have died in China and more than 1,300 have been infected globally, most of them in China.

Authorities at Suvarnabhumi have begun temperature scans on passengers arriving from Guangzhou and Wuhan, but not all Chinese cities. Flights from Wuhan have been cancelled because it is under quarantine.

“We will perform a virus scan if the Chinese government announces to watch out for other cities apart from Wuhan and Guangzhou,” general manager Suthirawat Suwannawat told reporters on Saturday.

China is Thailand’s biggest source of tourists, sending nearly 11 million to the country last year.

As concern grows locally over the possibility of a bigger outbreak, some social media users have accused the government of caring more about the money from Chinese tourists arriving during the Lunar New Year holiday than public health.

“Our country can control the situation well. We’ve had patients who are being treated and are improving, many have also gone home,” Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters.

Government agencies including the health, tourism and transport ministries are due to meet on Sunday to come up with protective measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

The virus outbreak has coincided with the Lunar New year, typically a time when hundreds of millions of Chinese travel domestically and abroad. However, authorities have placed several cities including Wuhan on complete lockdown.

Many New Year celebrations have been cancelled and other public gatherings are also being discouraged or banned.

Among other developments on Saturday, Hong Kong declared an “emergency” — its highest public warning level — and cancelled official Lunar New Year celebrations. Shanghai closed its cinemas and the Starbucks coffee chain she its door in cities across hard-hit Hubei province.

In Beijing, authorities said they would stop all inter-provincial shuttle buses from Sunday in order to curb the spread of the virus, local media reported.

The reports did not say when bus services will be resumed.

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