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Thailand deploys military to help screen for Novel Coronavirus

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Workers disinfect the cabin of a Thai Airways International jet at Suvarnabhumi airport to prevent the spread of the virus. Bangkok Post

BANGKOK (Bangkok Post) –Thailand has sent military medical personnel to help with the screening of passengers at international airports as another six Chinese nationals entering the country were found to be infected with the Wuhan coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases detected in the country to 14.

Col Sirichan Ngathong, deputy spokeswoman for the Royal Thai Army, said on Tuesday that Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha instructed the army, navy and air force to send mobile medical units to help public health officials screen arrivals at 10 international airports across the country as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.

Permanent secretary for public health Sukhum Kanchanapimai said on Tuesday there had been six new cases reported.

All were Chinese nationals, and five were members of a family, aged six-70 years old, visiting from Wuhan, Dr Sukhum said.

The new cases brought the number of coronavirus infection detected in Thailand to 14, he said.

The six new patients were being treated at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Nonthaburi province, Dr Sukhum said.

The premier on Tuesday appointed a national committee to prevent the spread of the virus. The committee comprises 59 experts and officials from relevant agencies and is to be chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul.

Prayut said that evacuation plans are already in place to bring Thais in China back home straight away once China gives permission.

Addressing the evacuation plans, Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai said that the ministry was closely coordinating with Thais living in China.

“To my knowledge, there are 64 Thais residing in Wuhan and all are healthy.

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin said he had asked the Corrections Department chief to order prisons across the country to closely monitor the health of prisoners, particularly 14 Chinese inmates imprisoned this month.

To control the spread of the virus by sea, the Port Authority of Thailand has designated a pier in front of Samut Prakan’s provincial hall as a checkpoint to monitor and screen crew members of boats and ships coming from China.

Sopon Iamsirithaworn, director of general communicable diseases at the Department of Disease Control, said that medical teams have been sent to closely monitor the health of 13 Thai students who returned from studying in Hubei province on Sunday.

“After an initial examination, the students, who all live in the deep South, are in good health,” Dr Sopon said.

The Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovations is now advising Chinese students studying in Thailand who returned to China during Chinese New Year and university students who have visited countries with confirmed coronavirus cases to stay away from classes for at least 14 days.

“This is a new virus and its specific nature is currently unclear. However, it appears that you can contract the virus at an early stage and not show any symptoms,” the ministry’s deputy secretary-general Pathom Sawanpanyalert said on Tuesday.

“This incubation period is currently considered to be 14 days.

“If a student still attends their classes while showing symptoms, universities can exclude them if they believe with reasonable grounds they may have a communicable disease,” he said.

According to the ministry, there are 11,738 Chinese students studying at 87 universities in Thailand at present, while the number of Thai students studying in China is estimated to be over 1,000, with 58 in Wuhan.

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