Thailand urges calm as Wuhan infections accelerate in region

Photo: BTS Skytrain / FB
Photo: BTS Skytrain / FB

Thai officials calling for calm say the deadly Chinese coronavirus is “fully under control,” though the kingdom leads in infections outside of China.

Officials including Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul have played down the potential impact of the virus and insisted the government is taking proactive measures to safeguard the population, as the military has yet to evacuate 64 Thai nationals in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the outbreak.

#CrapGovernment soared to the top trending hashtag on Twitter in Thailand during the past weekend with thousands of social media users complaining about the government’s inefficient management and measures to deal with the virus. 

The virus has now killed 106 people and infected more than 4,000 across China, mainly in the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. 

Update: Coronavirus infections in Thailand surge to 14: health officials

The novel coronavirus has spread to at least 13 other countries outside of China – Cambodia confirmed its first case last night in a Wuhan man who had visited Sihanoukville city earlier this month. 

China has attempted to seal off Wuhan and around 10 other Chinese cities in a bid to contain the virus, locking down more than 50 million people. However, 5 million had already fled Wuhan before the quasi-quarantine was put in place, city mayor Zhou Xianwang told reporters Sunday. Zhou also confessed to withholding information about the outbreak. 

China was also rushing to build a hospital there to treat coronavirus patients that it expects to complete this week. 

Singapore confirmed its fifth case yesterday. Officials also announced that university dorms are being converted into quarantine zones, with students given a day to evict. 

Teachers and students returning from China will also have to go on a 14-day mandatory leave of absence as a precautionary measure, it was announced yesterday. 

The government will not ban Chinese tourists from entering the country despite an ongoing petition that has now garnered more than 20,000 signatures. 

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong yesterday cautioned Singaporeans against “overreacting” or “turning xenophobic.”

‘I really want to go home,’ says Thai student trapped in Wuhan without food

The Foreign Affairs ministry last week revealed 35 Singaporeans in Wuhan, adding that they have all “reported that they are well.” There are no plans to evacuate them. 

Malaysia is temporarily barring entry for Chinese tourists from Hubei province and its capital city of Wuhan by suspending their visas amid the pneumonia virus outbreak.

The decision comes after more than 300,000 signed a petition calling the country to ban entry for Chinese tourists. 

Myanmar and Indonesia are still free of the coronavirus but remain vigilant as the outbreak spreads to neighboring countries. Indonesia has investigated around 15 suspected cases, most of them tested negative. The results of three cases are pending. 

The SARS-like virus, also known as 2019-nCoV, is a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it also comes from animals, and is believed to have emerged from a now-shuttered market that sold exotic wildlife such as bats. China has temporarily suspended all wildlife trade.

The head of the World Health Organization was in Beijing today to discuss the outbreak, days after he said the Wuhan pneumonia virus did not yet constitute a global health emergency due to the limited number of cases abroad. 

Canada, Germany and France are among countries outside of China with confirmed cases. In other parts of Asia, new cases have been confirmed in Cambodia and Sri Lanka, while Hong Kong now matches Thailand’s eight confirmed cases.

Hong Kong has declared the Wuhan virus outbreak an emergency in the city amid pressures for the government to act. It has also banned entry of people from Hubei province, excluding Hong Kong residents. 

The Philippines has suspended its visa-on-arrival program for Chinese travelers and repatriated more than 600 Chinese tourists back to Wuhan, in addition to canceling all direct flights. The country, which is still free of the virus, is investigating 11 suspected cases.

Several Metro Manila schools have suspended classes. Up to 50 Filipinos are in Wuhan and say they want to return home.  

Additional reporting Chayanit Itthipongmaetee, Todd Ruiz


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