Wuhan virus: Thai health minister says sick PM Prayut does not have coronavirus

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wearing a protective mask while speaking to the media at the temperature-screening point in Suvarnabhumi Airport, on Jan 29, 2020.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wearing a protective mask while speaking to the media at the temperature-screening point in Suvarnabhumi Airport, on Jan 29, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand's health minister denied that the country's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha may have the novel coronavirus after becoming unwell.

Mr Prayut cancelled some engagements Thursday (Jan 30) after getting symptoms resembling a cold, government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said. He continues to take telephone calls and do other types of work, she said.

"I'm taking sick leave today because of a little cold as per doctor's orders," Mr Prayut said on Twitter.

A day earlier, the premier had visited the main international airport in Bangkok to inspect screening measures for the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China. He was seen wearing a protective mask during the visit.

By Thursday afternoon, "#PrayforPrayuth" became the top-trending hashtag on Twitter in Thailand, with more than 35,000 tweets. Some of the posts wished him a speedy recovery, while others were less charitable.

Responding to questions from reporters, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul rejected the suggestion that Mr Prayut may somehow have contracted the new disease.

Thailand has so far confirmed 14 cases of the infection in travellers from China. Officials have said they are monitoring another 135 people for the disease.

South-east Asia's second-largest economy faces a rocky period ahead because the virus is shaking the critical tourism sector.