Thai authorities say they are taking steps to wield emergency legal powers to control the spread of the new virus and limit its economic and social impact. This comes after the The World Health Organization WHO says countries should prepare for for a possible coronavirus pandemic.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Monday the National Committee on Communicable Disease has endorsed adding COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, to a list of 13 other dangerous communicable diseases.
The endorsement is expected to be quickly implemented. Thailand has 35 confirmed cases of the virus, about half of whom have recovered.
The measure would authorize disease control officials to issue orders to quarantine and detain infected people or those suspected of carrying the coronavirus.
In emergencies, it would authorize governors, with consent from the committee, to temporarily shut down markets, entertainment facilities, business places, factories, community areas and educational institutions and order a halt to activities judged dangerous.
Doctors, landlords and others with responsibility for people potentially harboring the virus would be required to report suspected case within three hours of learning about them.
World Health Organization says prepare for coronavirus pandemic
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was too early to call the outbreak a pandemic. But countries should be “in a phase of preparedness”. A pandemic is when an infectious disease spreads easily from person to person in many parts of the world.
More cases of the virus, which causes respiratory disease Covid-19, continue to emerge. Even more with outbreaks in South Korea, Italy and Iran causing concern.
However, most infections are in China, the original source of the virus, where more than 77,000 people have the disease and over 2,600 have died, the BBC reports.
More than 1,200 cases have been confirmed in about 30 other countries and there have been more than 20 deaths. Italy reported four more deaths on Monday, raising the total there to seven.
The proportion of infected people who die from Covid-19 appears to be between 1% and 2%. Although the WHO cautions that the mortality rate is not known yet.
WHO says deaths deeply concerning
On Monday Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain reported their first cases of the coronavirus. All involving people who had come from Iran. Officials in Bahrain said the patient infected there was a school bus driver. Also several schools had been closed as a result.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Monday that the number of new cases in recent days in Iran, Italy and South Korea was “deeply concerning”.
However he added: “For the moment we are not witnessing the un-contained global spread of this virus. Furthermore we are not witnessing large scale severe disease or deaths from the Covid-19 coronavirus.
“Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.”