Thai health minister wants book thrown at ‘selfish’ people sneaking in with COVID-19

Anutin Charnvirakul speaks to reporters. Photo: Department of Disease Control / Facebook
Anutin Charnvirakul speaks to reporters. Photo: Department of Disease Control / Facebook

The highest health official today asked the authorities to prosecute three women accused of putting hundreds at risk and potentially igniting a COVID-19 outbreak by illegally entering the country and dodging quarantine.

Anutin this morning said he’s asked provincial governors in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai to take action against the women, who visited a number of crowded venues despite knowing they had COVID-19. 

“This incident shouldn’t have happened, but it did because of the selfishness of only a few people causing trouble to Thais,” Anutin Charnvirakul said Tuesday, referring to the three unidentified women, who worked together in Myanmar and crossed illegally. 

Chiang Mai panics after woman evades quarantine, spreads COVID-19

He said the women’s actions could have violated the Communicable Disease and Immigration acts.

“I asked officials of the Disease Control Department to file complaints against these people and take the action against them they deserve for harming the country because, while we were planning to reopen the country, we instead have to consider more preventative measures,” he added.

Anutin was echoing the outrage that’s erupted in the north, where schools and malls have closed in response. The military has issued stern warnings that Thais should only return via official crossings from Myanmar, which is in the throes of an explosive outbreak killing dozens daily.

Anutin said it’s too soon to decide if they should lock down Chiang Mai city, where at least one of the women visited popular malls and other venues. The controversial public health minister, who last month canceled plans to cut state quarantine to 10 days, said officials should now focus on preventing people from entering Thailand via unofficial channels. 

One of the unidentified Thai women on Saturday became one of five new COVID-19 cases reported. The 29-year-old woman reportedly crossed illegally from Myanmar’s Tachileik area into Chiang Rai province on Nov. 23 and skipped two-week mandatory quarantine. She then traveled to Chiang Mai where the authorities said she visited the CentralFestival Chiang Mai shopping center, Major Cineplex Chiang Mai and karaoke and host bar Kingsway, where she may have been employed. 

That led to anxiety the woman would prove a “super spreader,” though only two related cases have so far been found. 

The first country outside China to report a COVID-19 case, Thailand quickly brought it under control. In recent months, health officials have only reported a trickle of new daily cases, almost entirely in those quarantined upon arrival from abroad. 

All those allowed to enter or re-enter the country must undergo two weeks of quarantine with some exceptions granted for the likes of foreign dignitaries and military personnel.

Health officials today announced 10 more COVID-19 new cases, all in state quarantine. Since January, 4,008 cases have been confirmed with 60 deaths.

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Chiang Mai panics after woman evades quarantine, spreads COVID-19

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