Anutin urges Chinese visa chop
Health of Thais 'most important priority'
Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has said that he will ask the government to consider scrapping visas-on-arrival for Chinese travellers in a bid to curb the spread of the deadly Wuhan coronavirus.
"The health of Thais is the most important priority," said Mr Anutin, who chairs the newly-appointed national committee assigned to tackle and prevent the spread of the disease.
Mr Anutin added the government is ready to send an aircraft to bring Thais in Wuhan back home immediately if and when it is given the green light by Chinese authorities. So far, there have been no reports that Thais in Wuhan have been infected with the virus, Mr Anutin said, adding the committee will be briefed on the latest situation at a meeting on Friday.
Tanarak Plipat, the deputy director-general of the Disease Control Department, said that it is hard to say whether and when the severity of the virus outbreak in China will ease because Chinese authorities are focusing on those with severe symptoms and are not monitoring those patients who show mild symptoms or have no symptoms.
The number of cases with mild symptoms or without any symptoms in China remains unclear, Dr Tanarak said. When asked how long the monitoring of the outbreak will continue, Dr Tanarak said that in cases of flu outbreaks, it could take six to nine months.
Since the coronavirus just broke out in China this month and the spread of the disease is still ongoing, it may take a long time before the situation in China improves, Dr Tanarak said, adding it is important to slow down the spread of the virus or hospitals will have to deal with more patients than they can handle.
Meanwhile, another coronavirus-infected patient has been cleared, discharged and sent back to China, bringing the total number of cleared patients to six. Sopon Iamsirithaworn, director of the general communicable diseases bureau at the Disease Control Department, said 14 cases of coronavirus infections had been detected in Thailand as of noon on Thursday.
All those infected are believed to have contracted the disease abroad and are being treated at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute in Nonthaburi, he said. Six of the 14 patients were treated and discharged on Thursday. However, the other eight remain in hospital, Dr Sopon said.
He insisted no one had contracted the virus in Thailand. Between Jan 3 and Jan 29, a total of 202 people have been sent for observation. Of them, 31 were found to have suspicious symptoms at airport screenings while the remaining 171 sought treatment voluntarily. Doctors have allowed 67 of them to return home as they were found to be suffering from the influenza virus, he said.
Regarding rumours that two taxi drivers were infected with the coronavirus, the department chief said the pair, who were among the 202 people under observation, sought treatment two days ago after they came down with a fever and respiratory symptoms. However, the doctor said their conditions were not severe.
Results of lab tests on the 202 patients, conducted by the Department of Medical Service and King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, are expected to be known within two days, Dr Sopon said. In Phuket, 10 patients were waiting for the results of coronavirus tests. However, to date no infections have been detected.
Chalermpong Sukhonthapol, director of state-owned Vachiraphuket Hospital in Phuket, said on Thursday that since Jan 5, local health officials have found 23 people with suspicious symptoms but 13 of them have already been cleared. The other 10, who are all Chinese nationals, are being monitored at Vachiraphuket, Patong, Thalang and two other hospitals.