February 25, 2020 / 4:44 AM / in 3 months

Thailand reports two new coronavirus cases bringing total to 37

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand confirmed two new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, taking its total number of infections to 37, health officials said.

The two new cases, both Thai nationals, were people who were being monitored because they had been in contact with someone who had traveled to a risky country, said Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Department of Disease Control.

“We are gradually investigating related individuals and quarantining anyone found with a fever,” he said.

One of the newly confirmed cases was a 31-year-old woman with a family member who had traveled from China, another senior health official said, adding that health workers were monitoring the rest of the family.

The second new case was a 29-year-old man who worked as a driver for Chinese tourists.

The coronavirus is believed to have emerged in a wildlife market in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. It has infected more than 80,000 people in China, killing 2,663 of them.

Outside mainland China, the outbreak has spread to about 29 countries and territories, with a death toll of about three dozen, according to a Reuters tally.

Thailand was the first country outside China to confirm a case of the new coronavirus, doing so on Jan. 13.

In late January, Thailand had the second-highest number of infections after China, but new cases have gradually declined.

No one in Thailand has died from the coronavirus.

Thailand had “an extensive network of surveillance and rapid response teams”, which made it effective in tracing and monitoring contacts of infected people, World Health Organization representative in Thailand, Richard Brown, told Reuters.

Thiravat Hemachudha, head of the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Center, praised the government’s work to slow the spread of infections but warned that swifter decision-making was necessary.

“What we don’t want is the bureaucracy weighing all of our efforts down,” he said.

Thai authorities on Monday classified the coronavirus a “dangerous communicable disease”, giving health personnel and police more authority to quarantine people with symptoms, or those have traveled from risky areas.

A total of 22 patients have been discharged from hospital in Thailand and 15 are being treated.

Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Robert Birsel

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