BANGKOK – Thai Premier Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday (July 14) apologised for lapses with regard to two cases that sparked panic about renewed community transmission of Covid-19 in the kingdom after more than a month of being in the clear.
The two cases involved a nine-year-old daughter of a Sudanese diplomat and an Egyptian military officer who had a layover in Thailand. Patchy details released on Monday about their movements in Bangkok and Rayong province respectively sent the Thai rumour mill into overdrive and sparked public anger about double standards.
The country is now reviewing all its rules, including those that allow arriving diplomats to isolate themselves at home for 14 days instead of being quarantined at a designated facility. The Sudanese family did so in a Bangkok condominium before the girl tested positive.
“I ask for your trust and I am sorry and apologise to all Thais. This is unprecedented,” said Mr Prayut.
Earlier in the day, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) released detailed timelines of the two patients’ movements, partly to dampen speculation on social media that several well-known malls in downtown Bangkok were possibly tainted.
The Thai army on Monday denied it had anything to do with the Egyptian military officer.
He checked into a hotel in Rayong last week with the delegation after arriving at U-Tapao airport as part of a multi-leg journey that also took him to the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and China. He was exempted from the mandatory 14-day quarantine that applied to arrivals in Thailand.
On Saturday, he visited a mall in Rayong with his compatriots. His test results came back positive only after he had left Thailand on Saturday.
The CCSA disclosed that the delegation had initially resisted being tested for Covid-19.
Mr Prayut alleged bad faith. “It was a military flight, and they were supposed to abide by the mutual agreement. But they violated it, and ventured out of their residence.”
CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin said his unit accepted responsibility for the slip-up. “We apologise to the people in Rayong and Bangkok. This has affected thousands of people and more than ten schools needed to be closed. We will do better,” he said.
Officials are now looking into revoking landing permission for other Egyptian flights given the green light earlier.
The incidents may also affect the roll-out of other plans, like fast-track processing for special groups of foreigners, as the administration tries to plug loopholes that surfaced with the latest cases.
With foreign tourism largely stilled, tourism dependent Thailand is trying to spur spending by giving out subsidies for local travel. It has also been working on “travel bubble” arrangements to allow selected groups of visitors from Covid-free countries enter the kingdom.
But public sentiment remains largely wary. The majority of respondents in a survey conducted by the National Institute of Development Administration last week were opposed to an arrangement allowing medical tourists who had tested negative and served a 14-day quarantine period to travel around the country.