Less than a week after describing the 2019 novel coronavirus as “just a flu”, Thailand Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, has said foreign visitors to the country who fail to wear surgical masks “should be kicked out”.
The unusually strong statement came as the minister and his entourage were touring the BTS Siam station this morning (Feb 7) handing out free surgical masks.
After being snubbed by some “uncooperative Europeans”, Mr Charnvirakul let his feelings be known at a media briefing afterwards.
“Those farangs (a Thai term for caucasians) tourists – that’s something the embassies should be notified of and the public as well… that are not wearing masks. We’re handing them out and they still refuse. They need to be kicked out of Thailand.”
Claiming the foreigners “don’t care about the big picture”, he said “and these tourists are in the country, we’re giving the masks to them and they still refuse.
“The Chinese, the Asians, they are all taking [the masks], but those Europeans… that’s unbelievable”.
Continue his vent his frustration, Mr Charnvirakul said foreigners “don’t know they are not carrying [the 2019 novel coronavirus), adding “they might have been elsewhere before coming to Thailand.
“If we have these kind of people we should kick them out of the country”, he concluded. He later posted an apology on his Facebook page for “losing it”.
The blunt comments came as the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases world-wide approached 31,500 as of midnight February 6, with 638 deaths.
SARS on steroids
Some 1,560 people have reportedly been treated successfully and returned home, giving an early mortality figure of concluded cases of about 29 per cent… the equivalent of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus, on steroids.
The 2003 SARS epidemic had a mortality rate of 9.6 per cent, while Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), also a coronavirus, has killed 862 of 2,506 confirmed cases from 2012 until January this year, or a mortality rate of 34 per cent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO does not recommend the use of surgical face masks alone as an effective method for preventing the contraction of the novel coronavirus, saying they should only be worn by people with respiratory symptoms, or by healthcare workers. Good hand hygiene with frequent washing is more important. And therein lies the problem.
Ample evidence now exists that the 2019 novel coronavirus can be spread by people not showing any visible symptoms, so relying on others to mask-up once they show symptoms is placing your health in someone else’s hands and possibly too late.
Thailand has detected 25 2019 novel coronavirus cases, nine of who have recovered
Feature photo @SaksithCNA
- ANUTIN: FARANGS WHO DON’T WEAR MASK ‘SHOULD BE KICKED OUT’ (Khaosod English)
- Thailand encourages people to make their own hand sanitizer amid coronavirus outbreak (New York Post)
- Thai minister says kick out ‘Western’ tourists not wearing face masks (France 24)
- Singapore musician calls for virus fight while Chinese greats sing their love to Hubei (video) (AEC News Today)
He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia, with stints in the Middle East, the USA, and England.
He has covered major world events including Operation Desert Shield/ Storm, the 1991 pillage in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010, and 2014 Bangkok political protests.
In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.
Prior to AEC News Today he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.
In the mid-80s and early 90s he owned JLF Promotions, the largest above and below the line marketing and PR firm servicing the high-technology industry in Australia. It was sold in 1995.