COVID: Health officials slammed for lax handling of foreign diplomats, military

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, at center, is being interviewed by the media. Photo: Department of Disease Control / Facebook
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, at center, is being interviewed by the media. Photo: Department of Disease Control / Facebook

Public anxiety over the return of COVID-19 was piqued anew last night by word that a foreign diplomat and his family was allowed back to their downtown condominium after returning from abroad despite their daughter testing positive.

Reticent health officials acknowledged under pressure that the family, upon returning from Sudan, returned to their Soi Sukhumvit 26 condo. Though their 9-year-old daughter’s illness was announced Saturday, it was not said whether she had traveled home or been taken from the airport to the hospital. 

Disease control director Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoenchai said yesterday that officials were investigating the case as people criticized them for lowering their guard and not imposing strict enough containment measures.

The family had tested negative several days prior to flying to Thailand on Friday. They were tested again upon arrival, and the girl’s test results eventually came back positive. 

She was among 14 new cases announced Saturday– 12 of which came from Sudan. Despite that, her other four family members were not placed in quarantine nor an embassy facility, but rather allowed to voluntarily “self-isolate” at home. 

While public health officials initially kept their mouths shut about exactly where the family lived, the Condo One X in Soi Sukhumvit 26 announced that one of its residents had contracted COVID-19. 

The property said it disinfected common areas such as elevators, gym and swimming pool regularly; while the condo staff who came into contact with the family were ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Ten schools were ordered shut in Rayong province yesterday after an Egyptian air force officer with the disease and his crew were allowed to visit public places there, including a shopping center. 

As of today, Thailand has gone 50 days without detecting any new domestic transmission. 

Fear of its return led to demands health officials be transparent and disclose where and when both groups – the Egyptian personnel and Sudanese family – visited.

After weeks of scolding the public, it was the health officials being accused of neglect and applying a double-standard to those in authority and the military. The mantra of daily health briefings – “don’t let your guard down” – has been turned around against them. 

“It’s the government’s negligence, and they should come out and take responsibility. Schools just reopened, but they might be shut again soon. Everyone is in trouble because of this. #ShitGovernment,” Twitter user @OnceSun wrote. 

“Thai people are trying so hard and have sacrificed a lot to stop this fucking pandemic disease. But once you let people out there come into our country without any quarantine, this is what WE deserve to risk again? #ShitGovernment,” @Alittlebicth wrote.

Since July 1, some non-Thais have been allowed to enter the kingdom under exemptions which include military aircraft, diplomats and their family members. According to health officials, foreign diplomats are allowed to quarantine at home, while students from abroad may stay in campus-provided facilities.

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