Thai gov’t scrambles to plug entry exemption gaps after foreign cases uproar

Bangkok, Jul 15 (efe-epa).- The government of Thailand on Wednesday implemented new rules for diplomats entering the country after two positive cases of COVID-19 were detected in foreigners who benefited from exceptions to measures in place to contain the coronavirus epidemic.

The two cases involved the daughter of a Sudanese diplomat living in a central Bangkok condominium and a member of the Egyptian military who stayed at a hotel in Rayong province and whose positive test returned after he had left the country.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an order that was to come into effect Wednesday requiring all members of diplomatic missions, consular representatives and international organizations to “wait at the airport for the RT-PCR laboratory result” upon entry.

It also required close supervision of staff and their family members given permission to enter and undergo 14 days’ self-quarantine at an isolated facility.

On Tuesday night, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha announced during a televised address that health security protocols for diplomats and their families would be reviewed.

“It shouldn’t have happened,” said Prayut, citing disrespect for rules.

The girl and the airman had to undergo COVID-19 tests but, unlike other people without ties to diplomatic delegations, they were not taken to state quarantine centers and were free to go before results were known.

The 43-year-old Egyptian military officer, part of a 31-strong delegation, arrived in the country on July 8. The next day, the group traveled to Chengdu and returned on July 10. The crew was supposed to be quarantined at a hotel in Rayong.

However, the infected man and companions, some not wearing masks, visited shopping malls in the area, a popular destination for domestic tourism seeking to resume its activity.

A day later, on July 11, the man’s positive result was confirmed and the authorities began to trace hundreds of people who may have come into contact with the infected. The hotel, a mall and schools in the province were also closed.

Health teams also visited the central Bangkok apartment of the Sudanese diplomat, whose 9-year-old daughter tested positive for COVID-19, to test all tenants.

After making it to almost two months without local transmission, Thailand’s two new imported cases and the exceptions given to some have caused uproar.

“It shouldn’t have happened and I’m sorry. I’d like to apologize to the people of Thailand,” said Prayut.

Thailand, the first country to detect a case of COVID-19 outside of China, has so far managed to contain its epidemic by closing borders and the widespread use of masks, with 3,232 confirmed cases and 58 deaths. EFE-EPA


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