The government said on Tuesday the Egyptian embassy dodged quarantine for its 31-strong military party visiting Rayong province, and 1,889 local people who went to the same malls as the Egyptian who tested positive for Covid-19 now face home quarantine.
Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, put the blame on the Egyptian embassy in Thailand for arranging hotel accommodation for the Egyptian delegation instead of sending the visitors to a state quarantine facility.
"Regulations require the quarantine during their stay but the embassy contacted the hotel directly. Health and security teams learned later about the incident and did their best to cope," he said.
Dr Taweesilp referred to the 31 Egyptian military visitors who stopped over in the eastern province of Rayong on their way to China. One of them was later found infected with the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
The spokesman said the delegation arrived on the EGY1245 and EGY1216 military flights at U-Tapao airport in Rayong at 7pm on July 8. They reached DVaree Hotel in Muang district, Rayong, at 11pm the same day.
On July 9 they left U-Tapao airport at 5.30am for Chengdu City, China. They returned to the airport at 11.30pm on the same day. They arrived at DVaree Hotel at 2am on July 10.
At 11am on July 10, 27 of the 31 visitors walked to Laemtong mall and stayed there until 2.56pm. Four others caught taxis to Centralplaza Rayong department store and stayed there from 2pm to 6pm.
After learning about their non-cooperation, local disease investigators tried hard to convince the visitors to take Covid-19 tests. They finally cooperated when the embassy was contacted. The delegation left for Egypt at 11.30am on July 11.
"CCTV showed that three of the visitors wore face masks. The others had face masks but did not wear them. The infected person wore his face mask while in public," Dr Taweesilp said. He assured reporters that the visitors did not go out at night.
He said nine people are considered at high risk of having contracted Covid-19 from the infected Egyptian military officer: two van drivers at U-Tapao airport and seven employees at his hotel in Rayong. The seven were two two managers, one salesperson and four maids.
The spokesman said the Thaichana check-in/checkout application showed that 394 people visited Laemtong mall and 1,488 people were at Centralplaza Rayong when the Egyptians were there. Seven other people were also at Centralplaza Rayong but officials had yet to verify their phone numbers.
Dr Taweesilp asked the local people to do home quarantine for 14 days and seek Covid-19 tests from local health officials.
He said that CCSA also took responsibility for the incident and it would improve its operations. CCSA had expected the visitors to land at Suvarnabhumi airport, not U-Tapao. He said such visitors were normally quarantined at Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport hotel.
Because of the visitors' behaviour, CCSA cancelled eight Egyptian air force flights scheduled to bring visitors on July 17-20 and 25-29, he said.
"We are truly sorry for the incident in Rayong, where about 1,000 people are now at risk and more than 10 schools must be closed," Dr Taweesilp said.