BANGKOK — PM Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday appeared to chide the media for allegedly sowing panic over the possibility of a second coronavirus outbreak in Thailand.
Speaking at a news conference, Prayut said news coverage of the flawed quarantine measures in Rayong province, in which an infected Egyptian was allowed to visit a shopping mall, led to anxiety all over the country. He also asked the media to stress the fact that no one has caught the virus from the incident.
“Where did the panic come from?” he asked. “What caused people across the country to be moved to the point that they don’t want to come out?”
“Tell me,” Prayut said, glaring at reporters.
“The media?” one reporter replied.
“Can you lower it down?” the Prime Minister said. “If you still add more fuel into it, then it will always turn out like this. You asked me to help them, but who should I help? They can’t sell goods because they’re panicked, right? And have we found anyone infected? You should tell people about it.”
Nearly 400 people may have come in close contact with an infected Egyptian airman who was allowed to leave his quarantine hotel for a shopping trip in Rayong City, officials said. At least 127 schools across the province were also closed down in the wake of the possibility of a renewed outbreak.
The Prime Minister also urged members of the public to return to normal life. He said the government will not roll out a relief program for businesses affected by the incident, even after tourists cancelled their trips to the seaboard province in droves.
“That’s not how it works,” Prayut said. “Please come out and live a normal life. If anyone suspects of catching the virus, please see the doctors. That’s how the problem can be solved.”
But a local tourism business guild said almost all hotel reservations in the province have been canceled in the wake of the incident.
“Rayong hotels are severely hit by the incident because almost all customers canceled their reservations,” Phisamai Supanuntaroek of Rayong Tourism Council said. “People are concerned that there’s a risk, but in fact, hotels have strict measures in place. The industry has just begun to recover, I don’t know what to do under this situation.”
Prayut is scheduled to visit Rayong this evening.