Coronavirus outbreak possible in major tourist centres

Coronavirus outbreak possible in major tourist centres

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, centre, and officials visit Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province on Wednesday to boost the morale of health officials screening visitors for the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, centre, and officials visit Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province on Wednesday to boost the morale of health officials screening visitors for the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

The Public Health Ministry has warned of possible coronavirus outbreaks in areas with many Chinese visitors - such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket - after local transmission was confirmed in Japan.

The ministry issued the warning on Wednesday after a Japanese coach driver was reported to have been infected with the novel coronavirus while driving a Chinese tour group from Wuhan city.

The man had not been to Wuhan, where the deadly disease originated.

"An outbreak in Thailand is possible. As in Japan, it will start with local transmission on a very limited scale and later grow to the provincial level," said Dr Tanarak Plipat, deputy director-general of the Department of Disease Control.

"We are closely monitoring sensitive areas with large numbers of Chinese tourists such as Chiang Mai, Phuket and Bangkok, which are highly possible to be specific outbreak areas," he said.

The Public Health Ministry convened a meeting with provincial medical personnel on Thursday to prepare them for the possible provincial contagion.

People could protect themselves by washing their hands frequently and avoiding crowded areas, Dr Tanarak said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the government would charter commercial aircraft to evacuate Thai people from China, because a military airplane was not allowed in.

The government was waiting for permission from China and the evacuation would begin with 65 people in Wuhan, he said.

He said officials were supplying food to Thai people stranded in China.

Health authorities reported on Wednesday that there were 14 confirmed local cases of infected people, and nine of them were being treated at hospitals.

In addition, 158 people were placed in the Patient Under Investigation (PUI) programme, and 62 of them were already discharged.


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