Following the report on Thursday (February 20) by NHK that two Japanese passengers in their 80s from the Diamond Princess cruise ship – who were infected with COVID-19 and had pre-existing health issues – had died, bringing Japan’s fatality rate from the virus to three, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Cherdkiat Atthakor revealed three out of 25 Thai nationals on board the liner were infected and were now being treated in hospital.
The three Thais – one passenger and two crew members – were now in stable condition, Cherdkiat said quoting a report from the Royal Thai Embassy in Tokyo.
The 25 Thais on board the ship, which remains docked at Yokohama port, were made up of two passengers and 23 crew members. The other Thai passenger tested negative for the virus and has now disembarked and is staying at a hotel pending return to Thailand, while the remaining 21 Thai crew members were staying behind on board to continue their duties, Cherdkiat said.
The Diamond Princess carrying some 3,700 passengers and crew members had 621 positive cases confirmed among passengers and crew as of Wednesday (February 19) when its 14-day quarantine ended. The first batch of 600 passengers cleared by the Japanese Ministry of Health were thus allowed to disembark on Wednesday. The second batch of several hundred passengers is expected to be cleared and allow to leave on Thursday and the rest are expected to follow on Friday.
During the daily briefing on Thursday afternoon, Ministry of Public Health spokesman Rungruang Kitphati, reported the number of confirmed cases in Thailand was unchanged at 35 – of whom 17 had fully recovered and have been discharged, while 18 remained under treatment in isolation rooms at medical facilities.
He said that 1,052 people have been deemed “patients under Investigation” thus far – of whom 861 had already recovered and been released whilst 191 remained in hospital.
Globally as of 9am on Thursday, there were 75,725 infections and 2,126 fatalities, with 74,577 infections and 2,118 deaths in all regions of China, the ministry reported.
Dr Sopon Iamsirithawon, head of the Disease Control Department’s Communicable Disease Division, said that the Ministry of Public Health has no policy to prohibit people from travelling to and from countries with the virus infections as people would travel out of necessity anyway, though he urged the travellers to adopt universal precautions including frequent hand-washing and wearing facemasks in crowded places.
Sopon added that people coming or returning to Thailand would be screened and those without fever (body temperature beyond 37.5 degree Celsius) and respiratory symptoms wouldn’t be kept in hospital though they should observe themselves for suspected symptoms and seek medical attention and report their travel history if they become sick.
Sopon quoted the Thursday morning meeting of the committee coordinating preparedness to prevent and control emerging infectious diseases presided over by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha that Thailand had no policy to cover-up or twist the number of infections in the Kingdom so the public should be confident in its disease prevention and control measures, which were effective and received international acceptance.
Thailand was among the first countries to implement airport screening early and hand out health advisory cards to travellers while its public health personnel, officials and volunteers were capable and dedicated, so the public should be confident in their abilities and give them encouragement and cooperation, he added.
Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University on Wednesday issued two announcements for COVID-19 virus infection prevention. One covered additional measures for virus prevention which included the institute’s lack of approval for students or personnel to travel to or transit through the countries deemed at risk of the virus between February 20 and April 19 and the postponement of previously approved travel or lecturer exchanges during the same period.
If travel could not be avoided, students or university personnel must report their reasons for such travel to supervisors or a deputy rector to get approval and, upon their return before April 19, must undergo a health screening at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital or a equivalent certified medical facility and report the results to supervisors or a deputy rector. If they were infected or suspected to be so, class or work suspension would be in order to make way for treatment in isolation until full recovery or 14-day quarantine.
The other announcement stated nine countries/territories deemed at risk of infection risks were South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore.