Thailand taking no chances in preventing spread of Mers

South Koreans in Seoul wearing masks to protect themselves amid the Mers epidemic. Of the 175 confirmed cases in the country, 27 patients have died, 54 have recovered and have been discharged from hospital, while 94 patients are still undergoing trea
South Koreans in Seoul wearing masks to protect themselves amid the Mers epidemic. Of the 175 confirmed cases in the country, 27 patients have died, 54 have recovered and have been discharged from hospital, while 94 patients are still undergoing treatment. PHOTO: REUTERS

It outlines measures for medical tourists visiting country and pilgrims heading to Saudi Arabia

BANGKOK - Thailand is taking no risks with the recent outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), and has outlined several measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

For instance, medical tourists from countries affected by Mers who are travelling to Thailand will be required to undergo tests for the virus one week before they enter the country, said the Thai Health Ministry on Monday.

"The screening measure is part of efforts to control the spread of Mers," said Dr Supamit Chunsuttiwat from the Disease Control Department. Thailand receives more than a million medical tourists each year.

Thai officials also made it clear that hospitals cannot deny treatment to walk-in patients, even if they are suspected of being infected with Mers.

In the past week, at least two private hospitals were found to have sent suspected patients by taxi to Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute, simply because they came from Mers-hit countries, said Health Service Support Department director-general Boonruang Triruangworawat. "We have issued warnings to the staff of these two hospitals because such actions are against the law," he said.

Thais travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Haj and Umrah pilgrimages have also been asked to take special precautions. The Tourism and Sports Ministry told six major tour operators to instruct clients on how best to take precautions against the disease.

More than 16,000 Thai Muslim pilgrims are expected to travel next month to Saudi Arabia, where Mers first broke out.

The pilgrims will be put under observation for 14 days when they return to Thailand.

The Thai authorities believe the Mers situation in the country is under control. There has been just one confirmed case of the virus and the patient, a 75-year-old medical tourist from Oman, is recovering.

Meanwhile, the heir to the South Korean business giant Samsung, Mr Jay Y. Lee, publicly bowed his head in apology for one of its flagship hospitals becoming an epicentre for Mers.

His apology came as officials reported three new cases but no additional deaths.

Samsung Medical Centre in Seoul has accounted for about half of all 175 confirmed cases of Mers in South Korea.

"Samsung Medical Centre has failed to control the infection and spread of the virus, causing great pain and concern to the people," said Mr Lee, who is vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics. He promised a thorough overhaul of the hospital.

The medical centre's position as one of the country's most prestigious hospitals has been undermined by the outbreak.

South Korea's health ministry, said two out of three new carriers came into contact with the virus at two different hospitals in Seoul, one of which was Samsung Medical Centre.

Of the 175 confirmed cases, 27 patients have died, 54 have recovered and have been discharged from hospital, while 94 patients are still being treated.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2015, with the headline 'Thailand taking no chances in preventing spread of Mers'. Print Edition | Subscribe