TIGHTER CURBS IN REGION: Thailand

Coronavirus: Thai PM apologises for lapses that sparked panic in Bangkok, Rayong

A Thai municipality officer securing the area outside a residential building in Bangkok yesterday, where a nine-year-old daughter of a Sudanese diplomat had tested positive for Covid-19. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
A Thai municipality officer securing the area outside a residential building in Bangkok yesterday, where a nine-year-old daughter of a Sudanese diplomat had tested positive for Covid-19. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Thai Premier Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday apologised for lapses over two cases that sparked panic about renewed community transmission of Covid-19 in the kingdom, after more than a month of being in the clear.

The two cases involved a nine-year-old daughter of a Sudanese diplomat and an Egyptian military officer who had been on a layover in Thailand.

Patchy details released on Monday about their movements in Bangkok and Rayong province respectively sent the Thai rumour mill into overdrive and sparked public anger about double standards.

The country is now reviewing all its rules, including those that allow arriving diplomats to isolate themselves at home for 14 days, instead of being quarantined at a designated facility.

The Sudanese girl was diagnosed with Covid-19 on the same day the family arrived from Sudan, which has over 10,000 coronavirus cases.

The family isolated themselves in their Bangkok condominium after the girl was transferred to a hospital.

"I ask for your trust and I am sorry and apologise to all Thais. This is unprecedented," said Mr Prayut.

Earlier in the day, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) released detailed timelines of the two patients' movements, partly to dampen speculation on social media that several well-known malls in downtown Bangkok were possibly affected.

The Thai army on Monday denied it had anything to do with the Egyptian military officer.

He had checked into a hotel in Rayong last week with a delegation after arriving at U-Tapao airport as part of a multi-leg journey that also took him to the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and China.

He was exempted from the mandatory 14-day quarantine that applied to arrivals in Thailand.

 
 
 

On Saturday, he visited a mall in Rayong with his compatriots.

His test results came back positive only after he had left Thailand on Saturday. The CCSA disclosed that the delegation had initially resisted being tested for Covid-19.

Mr Prayut alleged bad faith.

"It was a military flight, and they were supposed to abide by the mutual agreement. But they violated it, and ventured out of their residence," he said.

CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin said his unit accepted responsibility for the slip-up. "We apologise to the people in Rayong and Bangkok.

"This has affected thousands of people and more than 10 schools needed to be closed. We will do better," he said.

Officials are now looking into revoking landing permission for other Egyptian flights given the green light earlier.

 

In a statement yesterday, the Egyptian Embassy in Thailand expressed "its most sincere regrets and sympathies to all those who may have been adversely affected", and said it was committed to adhering to Thailand's rules to prevent the spread of the virus.

Thais are largely wary of efforts at easing curbs. Most respondents in a survey conducted by the National Institute of Development Administration last week were opposed to an arrangement allowing medical tourists who had tested negative and served a 14-day quarantine period to travel around the country.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2020, with the headline 'Thai PM apologises for lapses that sparked panic in Bangkok, Rayong'. Print Edition | Subscribe