Anxiety grows as returnees avoid quarantine

Anxiety grows as returnees avoid quarantine

Some restaurants close amid reports of visits by people from high-risk areas

Anxiety is building among the public amid reports that a number of people who have returned home from high-risk countries have ignored requests for self-quarantine and undermined efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

One case involves a 20-year Thai student who returned from Iran on Feb 26 and was confirmed to have contracted the virus on Thursday.

Kitti Rattanasombat, director of Tha Sala Hospital in Nakhon Si Thammarat, said the patient stayed at a relative's house in Bangkok before travelling by an interprovincial bus from Bangkok to Nakhon Si Thammarat on Feb 28.

The patient also stayed at a ponoh (religious) school before checking into a hospital, said Dr Kitti. Authorities have finished tracing at least 60 people who came in contact with the man and have ordered them to undergo testing.

Those under close surveillance are believed to include 40 students at the ponoh, 32 bus passengers, 10 relatives, and 10 medical personnel.

The case comes amid fears of community transmission as the country prepares to intensify surveillance against illegal Thai workers who have returned from Covid-19 hit-South Korea.

Meanwhile, 15 government and private agencies in Prachuap Khiri Khan issued a statement opposing the government's idea of using the army-owned beach resort of Suan Son Pradipat in Hua Hin district to be a quarantine venue for the returnees, saying it is too near to communities.

Likewise, 11 agencies in Phetchaburi have also opposed the idea of using the army's beach accommodation near Chao Samran Beach in the province for quarantine purposes. They are afraid that local tourism will suffer as a result.

On Thursday, owners of at least four restaurants in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Bangkok decided to close temporarily for cleaning after some returnees reportedly visited their restaurants.

Chak Phanchuphet, an adviser to the labour minister, said that thousands of Thai informal workers began returning to the country in December last year as a result of a South Korean amnesty programme.

He said the Labour Ministry is monitoring the returnees even though the 14-day quarantine period has lapsed for many of them.

The amnesty began in December and continues until June 30 this year, during which time illegal Thai migrant workers can report to authorities and make a voluntary return.

According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Cherdkiat Atthakor, of the 209,909 Thai workers in South Korea, 57,470 are illegal. So far, 5,386 have reported to South Korean authorities and 4,727 have already returned.

The Public Health Ministry on Friday announced the 48th coronavirus infection case and reported a suspected case involving a Thai worker who returned from South Korea.

The new case is a 43-year-old British man who left London on Feb 28 and changed planes in Hong Kong on Feb 29 before arriving in Thailand. He sought treatment for a fever and chest phlegm at a private hospital on Tuesday and was referred to the Central Chest Institute of Thailand located in Nonthaburi province.

According to the ministry, another suspected case involves a 30-year-old Thai woman who was detected with a fever at Suvarnabhumi airport on Thursday. She has been sent to the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Nonthaburi.

The ministry also said that it will exercise strict measure on travellers from four countries, saying that travellers from these countries must submit a daily health report to public health officers.

Dr Thanarak Plipat, deputy chief of the Department of Disease Control, said the ministry has no policy for 14-day self-quarantine for foreign travellers, but they have to contact public health officials every day to inform them about their health condition.

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