Evac Plane Leaves for Wuhan; Anutin Not Onboard

Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul sends off a medical team bound for Wuhan at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok, Feb. 4, 2020.

BANGKOK — A plane dispatched by the Thai government is en route to China’s Wuhan on Tuesday morning to evacuate Thai nationals stranded in the locked down city.

The AirAsia flight left at about 7am today from Don Mueang International Airport. Onboard the plane was a team of physicians and consular officials who would assist the Thai citizens once it landed in Wuhan, but passengers do not include health minister Anutin Charnvirakul despite his earlier pledge.

Anutin, who sent off the plane in person, said he changed his mind about going to pick up the Thais in Wuhan because there would be many additional procedures if he tagged along.

“The Chinese would have to come and take care of us if someone of high rank was flying there as well,” Anutin said.

Anutin said about 140 Thais would be retrieved from Wuhan, the epicenter of the ongoing outbreak.

The plane is scheduled to return to Thailand tonight, and the passengers would be put in quarantine for 14 days to look for any infection.

The government would not publicly confirm where the repatriated Thais would stay, but the navy on Monday said it has prepared its facilities in Chonburi province for the quarantine.

Anutin also cancelled his appointment to speak about the Thai government’s response to the coronavirus epidemic at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand tonight because he had to welcome the Thais at an airport in Chonburi, the club said.

The evacuation took place after days of uncertainty and contradicting statements from different government officials when the operation would take place.