Thailand announces compulsory quarantine for arrivals from six places

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The Thai government on Thursday announces new compulsory quarantine measure for arrivals from four countries and two territories in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

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The move came as the Thai postal service began disinfecting all packages received from overseas, although the World Health Organization has said it is safe to receive post from badly affected countries such as China.

The quarantine announcement, published in the official Royal Gazette on Thursday, classified South Korea, China, Macao, Hong Kong, Italy and Iran as “dangerous communicable disease areas”.

This means that all arrivals from these places, including those that transit through them, will have to provide the authorities with their address and travel plan and be self-quarantined for 14 days.

“Thais and foreigners who came from these places will have to go through self-quarantine for 14 days at home or in a hotel room, where they have to report themselves to the authorities every day or officials will come to check on them,” health ministry spokesman Rungrueng Kitphati told Reuters.

Those that breached the quarantined will face 20,000 baht ($630) fine, Rungrueng said.

Arrivals who display coronavirus symptoms will be send directly to government hospitals.

The order will be effective from Friday.

Thailand has also prepared facilities for the 14-day quarantine of thousands of Thai workers gradually returning from the South Korean province of Gyeongsang and the city of Daegu, currently epicenters of the virus outbreak, the government said.

The country has recorded a total of 47 coronavirus cases since January, with one fatality. Thirty-one of the coronavirus patients have recovered and returned home, while 15 are still being treated in hospitals.

Among the other latest measures taken by the Thai authorities to halt the spread of the flu-like disease is the plan to disinfect packages from overseas, though there have been no reports of the virus being contracted from the mail.

“Thailand’s post offices will disinfect every package arriving from overseas, at headquarters, including at Suvarnabhumi airport, Lak Si post offices, express mail service and delivery trucks,” Thailand Post Chief Executive Officer, Korkij Danchaivichit, told reporters.

In advice to the public posted on its website, the WHO said: “People receiving packages from China are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus. From previous analysis, we know coronaviruses do not survive long on objects, such as letters or packages.”

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um, Panarat Thepgumpanat Jiraporn Kuhakan and Artorn Pookasook; Writing by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Alex Richardson