Thai health authority boss hits out at expats not wearing masks

Published:  10 Feb at 6 PM
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Expats living and working in Thailand are growing even more concerned over the large number of Chinese visitors still in major tourist towns.

At present, there are only 25 confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus being treated in Thai hospitals, with the majority in Bangkok. However, local media reports suggest some 100,000 Chinese tourists are still in the country, including some 91,000 from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou and 2,038 who arrived from Wuhan before China shut the city down. To date, none of those infected have died, and the bulk of the one million arrivals between the beginning of January and February 6 have now returned to China.

Now that the vast country is virtually closed down, the remaining Chinese tourists in Thailand are trapped due to travel restrictions and are being forced to extend their visitor visas. Thailand’s Immigration Bureau is arranging for medical practitioners to make health checks on all in order to isolate those who are infected, and a recent announcement has stated that not closing the borders to Chinese travellers will ensure future Thai/Chinese relations remain cordial.

At the same time, the Thai Health Minister has been forced to apologise for his recent statement that expats not wearing masks should be subject to deportation, but his apology was tempered somewhat by his comment that ill-mannered foreigners who refused free masks when offered as well as looking at him in a ‘demeaning way’ had forced him to respond. In addition, the minister has insisted that foreigners who don’t comply should be reported to their embassies.

Expats in Thailand who’re already very concerned over the rapid spread of the virus as well as the huge number of Chinese visitors still roaming the streets feel strongly the minister’s position was unjustified as well as hurtful. The World Health Organisation’s take on masks in general is that they can result in a false sense of security as well as the neglect of essential hand hygiene practices, and using them incorrectly may even negate protection from the virus.
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