11 Thais ‘partying’ in Thonglor get COVID-19, BTS hand gel thief busted

The Commons Thonglor. Photo: Google
The Commons Thonglor. Photo: Google

A 55-year-old man was arrested for allegedly stealing much-in-demand hand sanitizer at BTS Udomsuk as Thailand this morning announced 11 new COVID-19 cases.

Public health officials struck a “blame the victim” tone Thursday morning when they reported that 11 Thais who took ill had been partying, sharing glasses of alcohol and cigarettes in Bangkok’s Thonglor area prior to contracting the coronavirus. Thailand has reported 70 infections since it became the first nation outside to detect the virus.

One member of the group came into contact with someone from Hong Kong who has since returned home, according to Sukhum Kanchanapimai of the Public Health Ministry. He said the group was “partying” in Thonglor Feb. 27 and Feb. 29 prior to becoming ill. As is usual with announcements in Thailand, no information was shared about the specific venues or locations they visited.

Responding to rumors circulating on social media, The Commons Thonglor said in a carefully worded statement this morning that those who took ill had “not recently” been there. 

“As there are unconfirmed claims regarding COVID-19 cases in parts of Bangkok, we have investigated the situation and received direct confirmation that the particular individual who was mentioned repeatedly on social media was not recently at theCOMMONS,” it said in a statement.

It did not say when they had visited, but added that it began emergency disinfection at 2am this morning.

“Having said that, we have taken extra precautionary steps by hiring a professional company to conduct a thorough disinfection last night at 2am.”

A public relations representative from The Commons reached out later Thursday afternoon to clarify that statement pertained to a woman with COVID-19 whose image had been circulating on social media along with assertions she had been there.

“There was news since yesterday afternoon about a lady that came to The Commons,” spokeswoman Pam Vivatsurakit said. “Last night we got in touch with her and asked if she really came to The Commons.”

Pam reiterated that the woman had not been there “recently” but could not say when that was, or whether it was before or after she took ill. She said mall management had not yet reached out to public health officials to ascertain whether the group of 11 had visited

Days after a man was caught on camera swiping hand gel from BTS Udom Suk, Bang Na Police yesterday arrested Peeraphat Ruangkunarom and charged him with theft. Large hand-pump bottles of sanitizer have become routine sights at Skytrain stations since the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Peeraphat reportedly confessed to the crime and told police he was unemployed and couldn’t find any affordable hand sanitizer to use, which motivated him to take it from the BTS station, said Col. Nakorn Tongpanich of Bang Na Police.

In CCTV footage, a man is seen pumping the hand gel into his palm. After walking a few steps away, he stops before returning to snatch the whole bottle. 

Face masks, sanitizer and related products were placed under government price controls last month; still, they are difficult to find and sold online at inflated prices. 

Read more COVID-19 coverage here.

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