19 Soldiers Quarantined After Virus Infection Linked to Drill

Military personnel join in the Final Planning Conference of the Cobra Gold joint military exercise on Nov. 6, 2020. Photo: Royal Thai Navy
Military personnel join in the Final Planning Conference of the Cobra Gold joint military exercise on Nov. 6, 2020. Photo: Royal Thai Navy

BANGKOK — The army on Thursday said 19 soldiers were placed under quarantine after they participated in a joint military exercise where a South Korean serviceman later tested positive for the coronavirus.

The 32-year-old soldier from the Republic of Korea attended the Cobra Gold drill in Rayong province from Nov. 3 to Nov. 5, and departed Thailand Sunday. He was diagnosed with the coronavirus upon his arrival in his home country, according to the Thai disease control department.

Army spokesman Santipong Thammapiya said they have identified Thai personnel who had been in close contact with the South Korean, and maintained that no one has been infected so far. They will be spending the next 14 days in quarantine in their accommodation, Lt. Gen. Santipong added.

“The army sent 19 men to attend the same meeting with the infected soldier,” Santipong said. “The army’s coronavirus response center has informed them of the relevant measures and they have been tested for infection.”

Walairat Chaifoo, a top epidemiologist at the Disease Control Department, said Wednesday the South Korean soldier entered Thailand on Oct. 17 and stayed in quarantine until Nov. 1, where he tested negative twice.

He then stayed at a hotel in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit area before departing to Rayong province on Nov. 2. Health officials would not identify the hotel by name.

The unnamed soldier participated in a strategy planning conference at an undisclosed hotel in Rayong’s Ban Chang district from Nov. 3 to 5, along with 201 people from Thailand, the United States, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, Japan, China, and India.

Read: Army Admits 110 US Soldiers for Joint Exercise in Pandemic

He later returned to Bangkok and stayed at a hotel – officials have not specified where precisely – before flying back to South Korea on Sunday, Walairat said.

She added that it remains unclear whether the soldier caught the virus in Thailand or South Korea.

“We have to wait for test results from South Korea before we can reach the conclusion,” Walairat said.

Health officials are also questioning individuals who spent close contact with the soldier and asked members of the public to remain calm since he did not visit any public venues apart from those designated on his itinerary, Walairat said.

In today’s briefings, the government’s coronavirus response center said five new cases of infection were reported inside state quarantine. They include an individual returning from Germany, Sweden, Iran, Kenya, and Switzerland.

As of Thursday, 99 infected patients are being treated at hospitals, while 3,693 patients have recovered. The country’s cumulative case of infection now stands at 3,852.