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Worried about virus infection? Get the self-exam app

Health Ministry strengthens safeguards, Westerdam welcomed in Cambodia

Touting a new questionnaire app that people can use to discover if they might be at risk of COVID-19 coronavirus infection, the Public Health Ministry said the rising numbers of new cases in Hong Kong and Singapore demand stricter screening of arrivals from those locations.

Department of Disease Control director-general Dr Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai said on Thursday (February 13) that the number of confirmed infections in Thailand remains stable at 33.

Of the victims, 21 remain in medical facilities and 12 have recovered and been released.

The number of “patients under investigation” thus far stands at 823, with 673 found to be mainly suffering from flu and released on condition they have medical follow-ups.

That number is high because screening had become more effective and widespread, he pointed out.

The ministry, Chiang Mai University and the National Research Council of Thailand have developed the self-screening phone application with questions in Thai, Chinese and English, which is available at http://sescimande.net/Self-Screening.

Globally as of Thursday morning, there were 60,062 infections and 1,360 fatalities – including 59,539 infections and 1,358 deaths in all regions of China, the ministry reported.

Suwannachai urged calm regarding the government’s decision to allow the cruise ships Seabourn Ovation and Quantum of the Seas to make 10-hour stops at Phuket on Thursday morning.

Both ships arrived in accordance with their itineraries and proper requests for port access were submitted in advance, he said. Their combined 5,000 passengers were screened onboard and declared free of the virus and anyone who disembarked would be screened again by Thai authorities.

Deputy Transport Minister Athirat Rattanaset meanwhile had earlier on Thursday cited a Marine Department report saying anyone who had travelled to COVID-19-affected locales in the previous 14 days was not allowed on board either of the two ships. The same applied to any would-be passenger with a fever of 38.5 degrees or higher. The health forms of their passengers and crew had been submitted to Phuket Immigration medical personnel at least 24 hours ahead of the ships’ arrival, so they were well prepared to screen anyone disembarking, Athirat said.

On Twitter, the hashtag “#SeabournOvation” signified the leading chat trend in Thailand after users shared outrage that the government had welcomed the Ovation and Quantum and yet turned away the Holland America Line cruise ship Westerdam, which finally found a berth in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

Westerdam passengers are expected to disembark over the next few days and by taken on chartered planes to Phnom Penh for flights home.

The Thai government and Immigration Police Bureau learned from Cambodian authorities that the ship had anchored at Sihanoukville 10am on Thursday and passengers and crew were to be screened onboard before immigration processing could begin, Immigration Police Region 3 commander Pol Maj General Achayon Graithong reported. He assured the public that any passenger flying to Thailand would be screened again here on arrival, even if cleared in Cambodia.

The Public Health and Foreign Affairs ministries hosted a “Briefing/Interactive Session on International Partners in Response to COVID-19” on Wednesday for the diplomatic corps and international organisations. The embassies of 62 countries and 17 foreign partners were represented.

Photo Credit: Ministry of Public Health

Department of Disease Control senior expert Dr Sombat Thanprasertkul told them Thailand’s response began on January 3, even before information about COVID-19 became clear and there was widespread confusion and even panic among the public. Once the World Health Organisation agreed that it represented a “public health emergency of international concern”, he said, a concerted effort by the private and public sectors became essential in minimizing the socio-economic impacts.

Dr Sopon Iamsirithaworn, the department’s incident commander in charge of COVID-19, briefed the audience on the status of confirmed and suspected cases in Thailand and explained the prevention and control mechanism overseen by the National Executive Committee on Preparedness, Prevention and Response to Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Legislation enacted in 2015 triggers the establishment of emergency operations centres at the national, ministerial and provincial levels to begin situation assessment and initiate traveller screening, hospital and community surveillance, treatments in isolation rooms, contact tracing and quarantines, lab diagnosis, logistic support for medical supplies, research and development, international cooperation and public communications including the Department of Disease Control’s 1422 hotline.

Dr Soawapak Hinjoy, director of the department’s Office of International Cooperation, said key information was being displayed in Thai, English and Chinese on its website.

Chinese Embassy officials at the seminar described efforts to ensure the safety of foreigners in China and World Health Organisation Thailand presented guidelines for communicating.


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