Israel ban irks Thailand
Ministry suspends worker scheme
Thailand has called on Israel to review its decision to ban Thais from entering the country in a bid to control the spread of deadly coronavirus (Covid-19).
As a result of the ban, the Labour Ministry will have to postpone sending Thai workers to Israel under the employment cooperation project between the two countries. The situation is being assessed daily.
According to the Thai embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel's Population and Immigration Authority has barred entry to anyone who visited Thailand, Macau, Singapore and Hong Kong during the past 14 days, said Natapanu Nopakun, deputy spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Previously, Israel's health ministry had imposed a 14-day house quarantine on visitors from Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.
Mr Natapanu said Pannabha Chandraramya, the Thai ambassador in Tel Aviv, had met Gilad Cohen, deputy director-general for Asia and the Pacific at Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to explain Thai measures to prevent and control coronarivus and clarify the outbreak situation in Thailand.
"Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs listened and understood. It will contact other agencies, particularly Israel's Ministry of Public Health," Mr Natapanu said.
Thailand hoped Israel would review the ban after learning about the measures Thailand is taking to contain the virus, and given the good relations between the countries.
Meir Shlomo, Israel's ambassador to Thailand, told the Bangkok Post on Wednesday that the Israeli Ministry of Health's decision was aimed at preventing the spread of the Covid-19 to Israel.
Israeli ministries were following developments closely and re-assessing the situation in Thailand and in the other countries on a daily basis, he said, adding no one knew at this stage how long the current situation would last.
However, the two countries will continue to share information and preserve a spirit of mutual confidence, as they had done in so many fields for so many years, said Mr Shlomo.
"Several thousand Thai tourists, businesspeople and workers in agriculture travel to Israel every year. We do hope they will all be able to reschedule their flights and travel to Israel in the very near future," he said.
Lt Gen Nanthadet Meksawat, secretary to the Labour Minister, said the ministry will postpone sending workers to Israel until Tel Aviv changed its mind on the matter.
Under the Thailand-Israel Cooperation on the Placement of Workers (TIC) agreement, which began in 2012, about 5,000 new Thai workers are enrolled every year to work in Israel's agricultural sector.
The TIC project is jointly implemented by the Thai Labour Ministry, Israel and the International Organisation for Migration.
Meanwhile, authorities on Wednesday discharged 137 Wuhan returnees from quarantine at the Sattahip naval base in Chon Buri province.
Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha said one other Wuhan returnee remained under observation at Chon Buri Hospital.
The patient had already tested negative for the virus but still needed to be retested for confirmation.
If the second test comes up negative, the patient will be discharged, Mr Sathit said.
Dr Sopon Iamsirithaworn, director of the Disease Control Department's Bureau of General Communicable Diseases, said the 137 discharged returnees tested negative for Covid-19 after being evacuated by air from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
He said the number of Covid-19 cases recorded in Thailand remained at 35, 18 of whom were in hospital.
Patients investigated for the virus numbered 957,857.
Dr Sopon denied rumours that Thailand was concealing the true number of local Covid-19 patients, which critics say must be higher given it had received so many Chinese visitors.
He said Thailand was the first country to detect infections in Chinese tourists and this had prompted strong screening and public awareness of precautions against the virus.
"Without swift surveillance and prevention, the number of infected people would have been higher," he said.
Meanwhile, Rungruang Kitphati, spokesman at the Public Health Ministry, advised tourists to postpone trips to Japan for the time being for the sake of their safety.
Those who needed to travel there should avoid crowded places and seek medical help immediately upon their return if they had symptoms, he said.
Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed concern for the health of medical personnel who are looking after Covid-19 patients.
The prime minister also has instructed agencies to implement strict monitoring of the outbreak, she added.