The Bangkok taxi driver identified as Thailand’s first victim of human-to-human local transmission of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus says he has no ill feeling towards the Chinese.
“I don’t harbour bad feelings against the Chinese people,” the unnamed 50-year-old said on Wednesday (February 5).
“I drive a taxi for a living and, honestly, tourists are my pot of rice – the source of my income. While I was in quarantine, I watched the news and I was sending out encouragement to the people of Wuhan every day to keep fighting. Look at me – I fought and I recovered from it.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Chanvirakul congratulated the cabbie on his release from Nonthaburi’s Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute.
The driver has never been to China, but evidently became infected while ferrying Chinese tourists from Suvarnabhumi Airport. He stopped working immediately for fear of passing on the virus.
The taxi driver thanked everyone involved in his treatment. He recalled shedding tears the day he was diagnosed as infected, but said the institute director called on him every day urging him to try and stay calm and to get plenty of nourishment and rest to build his immunity.
He asked others in the service sector, especially his fellow cabbies, to mind their health and wear a facemask. Earning money was a secondary condition because their income would vanish if they fall ill.
He urged policymakers to compensate the stricken for income lost while under treatment or observation.
Minister Anutin said the driver left none of the people who came into contact with him infected, and that the number of confirmed cases in Thailand remained 25, nine of whom had fully recovered. The rest, he said, were “all on the way to recovery”.
The number of patients under investigation (PUI) from January 3-February 4 was 549, with 124 already recovered and released.
There were 20,682 confirmed cases in China and 25 other countries and territories as of Tuesday, with 20,485 in all regions of China, the ministry reported. There had been 427 fatalities as of the same day, the ministry said.
Noting that the 2019-nCoV situation already had high national priority, with ministries and agencies working in integration against the virus, Anutin said good screening and treatment measures were readily available, including world-class labs that have won praise from international organisations.
Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha told reporters in Chon Buri on Wednesday that, of the 138 Thais flown home from Wuhan, China, on Tuesday night, four were being treated in hospital for symptoms similar to those of 2019-nCoV.
The two males and two females were separated from the others on arrival and then sent to Queen Sirikit Hospital’s disease surveillance ward because three had fever and flu-like symptoms and another had diarrhoea.
The fever gripping three returnees had eased by Wednesday morning, but X-rays showed slight irregularities in their lungs, prompting further lab tests. The fourth person, a woman, was also improving and her lungs were clear, Sathit said.
Anutin added that the four returnees’ initial test results were negative for coronavirus, but more tests would be conducted to verify it before they could join others being kept under observation.
Sathit said the rest of the returnees, who included a six-months-pregnant woman and two small children, appeared to be well but would remain under round-the-clock observation for 14 days at an isolated facility at the Satthahip Naval Base, where psychologists were also on hand to help if they felt overstressed.
Conditionally scheduled for release on February 19, the returnees will be allowed to talk to relatives via video conference on Thursday. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was slated to make a video call to them on Wednesday afternoon.
Of the 140 Thais waiting to be brought home from Wuhan on Tuesday on a special Air Asia flight, two were deemed unfit to fly because of fever. Sathit said the 15 public health staff and airline crew on the flight had all been cleared as free from infection and had resumed normal duties.
Air Asia pilot Manoon Jarornloy wrote about the 18-hour mission on Facebook, saying it was agreed at the outset to proceed “quickly, quietly and with the least manpower”. He shared behind-the-scenes details such as the government coordinating the effort and praised the medical team, Foreign Affairs Ministry officials and cabin crew as “heroes”.