Sumeth quits as THAI president

Sumeth quits as THAI president

Airport manager out over Korea screening

Virus solution?: A volunteer sprays what is claimed to be disinfectant solution at people at Ramkhamhaeng University yesterday. The volunteer was also seen spraying people at Victory Monument on Wednesday. Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang has prohibited spraying such solutions and ordered that they be tested. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Virus solution?: A volunteer sprays what is claimed to be disinfectant solution at people at Ramkhamhaeng University yesterday. The volunteer was also seen spraying people at Victory Monument on Wednesday. Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang has prohibited spraying such solutions and ordered that they be tested. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

Thai Airways International Plc's (THAI) president Sumeth Damrongchaitham has tendered his resignation, after his plans to rehabilitate the loss-ridden national flag carrier were reportedly rejected by the airline's board.

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said yesterday he had been informed by the THAI board that Mr Sumeth had submitted his resignation.

The board meeting yesterday did not reject Mr Sumeth's resignation, and it would be effective from April 11, the transport minister said.

During the next month an acting THAI president would have to be appointed as there are urgent tasks ahead -- the rehabilitation of the airline and measures to handle the spread of the coronavirus, said Mr Saksayam.

A source at THAI said Mr Sumeth quit after his proposals to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak were not supported by the ministry.

Mr Sumeth is one of two high-profile executives in the aviation industry to quit amid speculation that their decisions were linked to the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Wg Cdr Suthirawat Suwanawat, general manager of Suvarnabhumi airport, also resigned on Wednesday to take responsibility for Thai returnees from South Korea slipping through the screening process.

Transport Minister Saksayam said he has instructed the airline to hold off on plans to purchase new aircraft as the outbreak has caused a drop in business.

The source said the airline's board has appointed the Finance Ministry's deputy permanent secretary Chakkrit Parapuntakul, who is also a THAI board member, as acting president of the airline.

Meanwhile, Nitinai Sirismatthakarn, president of Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT), said yesterday that Wg Cdr Suthirawat had quit because some Thai workers returning from South Korea had managed to avoid screening.

An AoT source said personnel at the country's six international airports, especially at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, have been struggling with the task of screening travellers and are at risk of contracting the disease themselves. Also, unclear coordination from key agencies such as the Public Health Ministry and Immigration Bureau are a hindrance.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul met executives of the medical faculties of Chulalongkorn University, Siriraj Hospital and Ramathibodi Hospital to discuss measures should the Covid-19 outbreak enter Stage 3.

The meeting agreed that the existing measures are enough to combat the outbreak at Stage 2, but it is also necessary to make plans for when it reaches Stage 3.

The medical executives have pledged their support and cooperation to control the outbreak.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, meanwhile, insisted yesterday that transmission in Thailand had not yet reached Stage 3 as the measures in place have worked well in fighting the spread. However, he said, additional measures will be considered if the number of infected patients rises.

Separately, Thiravat Hemachudha, head of Health Science Centre of Emerging Diseases at Chulalongkorn Hospital, said the authorities should consider an immediate lockdown if Thailand enters Stage 3, especially since this is the first time a cluster of patients has been infected by the virus.

"When the time comes, the authorities should act swiftly to contain the spread of the disease. If the order comes too soon or too late, it will be met with resistance," he said.

Dr Thiravat also advised social distancing to contain the virus which can be transmitted via droplets.

Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, insisted that Thailand was still at Stage 2 as there have not been many infection clusters.

"We will hold out against the disease as long as possible to prepare our personnel and facilities and raise public awareness. Eat hot food and use serving spoons, avoid sharing personal items, and maintain social distancing," he advised.


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