The Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has apologized after saying “Western tourists” should be expelled from the country for not wearing face masks. The minister posted an apology on his Facebook page after his outbreak earlier, the Bangkok Post reports.
The Thai health minister apparently “lost it” after “some foreigners from Europe” were uncooperative while he was out campaigning for people to wear masks. “We never know which country foreigners have visited before they come to Thailand,” he wrote. Their previous stop could pose a health risk for the kingdom.
Mr Anutin was distributing surgical masks at the Siam skytrain station entrance on Friday. He complained that “farang” tourists did not take them and acted as if they “don’t care”. “These kinds of people, we should kick them out of Thailand,” he told reporters, waving a handful of surgical masks in the air.
Thailand’s tourism hemorrhaging
The Thai health Ministers comments come as Thailand’s tourism industry is hemorrhaging over a massive drop in tourists due to the high baht and now the coronavirus.
More than 10 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand last year but the industry projects about 2 million fewer arrivals in 2020 because of the coronavirus. Making US, European and other markets extremely vital. Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up a quarter of total arrivals.
Debates over the efficacy of surgical masks the Minister was handing out to protect against the coronavirus, have also been called into question.
Face masks and the coronavirus
The National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (CDC) says there are 2 different kinds of face masks. Surgical masks and N95 respirators. Both of which are commonly worn by health care professionals and those who are already sick.
Health experts generally agree surgical masks usually found at pharmacies are to protect the wearer against large droplets or splashes of bodily and infected fluids from others. Wearing surgical masks does not prevent a person from inhaling smaller airborne particles; they are not considered respiratory protection by the CDC. Surgical masks are also loose fitting, and when the wearer inhales, there is potential for particles to leak in or out of the sides.
N95 respirators are recommended for healthcare professionals by the CDC. Even more in the event they are treating patients who are infected by the new coronavirus. The N95 masks are tight fitting and filter out at least 95% of airborne particles.
Meanwhile the World Health Organization’s own Thailand office tweeted a graphic on Feb 4 stating masks are “not needed for general public who do not have respiratory symptoms”. The WHO has advised that to help stop the spread of respiratory infections, it is recommended that people wash their hands often. Also avoid touching their faces, keep distance from people who are sick and to stay inside if they are sick.
Thailand coronavirus cases expanding
Thailand has detected 25 coronavirus cases and nine of those patients have recovered, while streets, public transport and shopping centres have filled with people wearing face masks.
Thai health officials this week reported more cases of human-to-human transmission of coronavirus. With six people — four Thais and two Chinese tourists — the latest found to be infected.
“The country is now in the stage of disease transmission. Since they are staying in places full of foreign visitors, tourists are likely to be in areas of disease transmission,” said Dr Tanarak Plipat, deputy director-general of the Disease Control Department.
He was speaking after health authorities contacted Seoul for information about a Korean woman found infected with novel coronavirus on her return from Thailand despite having never visited China.
Source: Bangkok Post, Khaosod, Time