Doubts emerge over travel order as Thai health minister’s Facebook goes MIA

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul last month at a press conference. Photo: Department of Disease Control / FB
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul last month at a press conference. Photo: Department of Disease Control / FB

A top health official who declared that anyone arriving from nine nations must self-quarantine “without exception” under force of the law may have gotten out ahead of himself.

Despite Anutin Charnvirakul’s decisively worded order yesterday, health ministry officials this morning told reporters that nothing was certain and they should wait for more clarity in the form of an official announcement in the Royal Gazette, where government orders and laws are routinely published.

Further adding to the aroma of behind-the-scenes turmoil, the Facebook profile of Anutin, a prolific social media user, has been gone since Tuesday afternoon, not long after he posted the order.

That order, an official missive from the Disease Control Department, said that anyone returning from Japan, Singapore, Germany, Italy, Taiwan, China, South Korea, France and Iran must place themselves in isolation for 14 days. It said no exceptions would be made.

Meanwhile passengers arriving from Singapore continued to be allowed through as normal today at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the tourism authority’s Singapore office posted a bulletin that it had no knowledge of any quarantine order.

“To date, we have not received any official government announcement on the quarantine/restriction for visitors from Singapore travelling to Thailand,” it said.

Health officials were empowered Saturday to issue such quarantine orders and shut down events at will when COVID-19 was added to the list of ailments covered by the Communicable Diseases Act. Violating the act’s measures courts legal penalties of up to a year in jail and a sizable fine.

Thailand has struggled to balance its need for tourism revenue with growing public alarm over the virus’ spread ever since it became the first nation outside China to report an infection. Doubts that the government was coming clean about the scale of infections was confirmed earlier this week when it came out that it never reported a man who tested positive nearly a month earlier on Feb. 6 until his death this past Saturday.

Separately, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha on Wednesday morning ordered that all Thais returning from two South Korean cities – Daegu and Gyeongsang – must be put in government quarantine for 14 days.


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