Anutin: ‘Selfish’ Returnees Pose Risk Of Renewed Outbreak

Security officers patrol the Thai-Myanmar border in Prachuap Khiri Khan province on Dec. 3, 2020.
Security officers patrol the Thai-Myanmar border in Prachuap Khiri Khan province on Dec. 3, 2020.

BANGKOK — Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul on Thursday slammed a group of returnees who snuck across the Thai-Myanmar border and later found infected with the coronavirus, calling them “selfish.”

Six new cases were reported Wednesday in five provinces including Bangkok. They were all Thai nationals who entered the kingdom illegally from Myanmar’s border town of Tachileik, according to the Disease Control Department.

Hundreds of people are believed to have come into close contact with the group, but Anutin maintained the situation is well under control.

“We can keep the infections under control. We can track down the patients,” Anutin said. “I ask those returning from Tachileik to show their spirit and come to get tested at hospitals. We’re also telling Thais who still reside in Tachileik to sign up and come back through an appropriate channel.”

He added, “We’re willing to take care of them. If anyone is found infected, they will be treated, if not, they will spend 14 days in quarantine. But those people are selfish. They avoided the quarantine.”

Four other cases were also found over the past few days, bringing the total number of infected to ten, all of them women. Sophon Iamsirithavorn, director of the health ministry’s communicable disease division, said they had either worked or visited nightclubs in Tachileik before crossing the border through an unauthorized channel.

Workers spray disinfectants at a shopping mall in Chiang Mai province.
Workers spray disinfectants at a shopping mall in Chiang Mai province.

One of the ten new patients had attended the crowded “Farm Festival on The Hill” concert at Singha Park in Chiang Rai province on Nov. 29, according to the Disease Control Department.

Another patient, a 21-year-old woman, crossed into Thailand on Nov. 28 before boarding a Nok Air flight to Bangkok on the same day. She fell ill and went to see a doctor the next day, where she was tested positive for coronavirus.

Up to 699 people have come in contact with the returnees, head of the Disease Control Department Opas Kankawinpong said, though he added that no one has tested positive so far.

There is also no need to reintroduce lockdown measures at this time, health ministry perm-sec Kiattiphum Wongrajit said.

“It’s unnecessary to impose lockdown in provinces where the patients were found,” Kiattiphum said. “If there’s no positive result within seven days, we will consider there’s no infection to other groups of people. If there’s no positive result within 14 days, we will declare the situation safe.”

Three of the patients tested positive in Chiang Mai, another three in Chiang Rai, and one each in Phayao, Phichit, Ratchaburi, and Bangkok, officials said.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered every border province to step up patrols along the border to prevent illegal crossings. Authorities will also take legal actions against any undocumented returnees without exception, he said.

Passengers get their temperature checked at Chiang Mai Airport.
Passengers get their temperature checked at Chiang Mai Airport.

Prayut himself has blamed anti-government protests in Bangkok for the lax border control. He said security officers were mobilized from the provinces to maintain order in the capital while the protests were ongoing.

As of Thursday, 147 infected patients are being treated at hospitals, while 3,832 patients have recovered. The country’s cumulative case of infection now stands at 4,039.