Rayong outrage by govt’s ‘lack of warning’

People queue to be tested for Covid-19 at Passione Shopping Destination mall in Rayong province on Tuesday. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Villagers and businesses in Rayong are enraged by the government’s failure to warn them about the whereabouts of an infected military officer from Egypt who violated the self-quarantine rules to visit a mall during a stopover in Thailand.

“We have been cooperating with the government’s measures on Covid-19 all along. All we need from them is a timely warning about Covid-19 risks. Is that too much to ask?” said Nalinee Paipimai, a 29-year-old woman on her way to take a Covid-19 swab test on Tuesday.

Ms Nalinee, accompanied by her 11-year-old son were among more than 400 people who visited the Passione Shopping Destination on Saturday — the same day that the group of Egyptians were in the mall, one of whom was tested positive for the disease.

Like many other unfortunate shoppers who went to the mall that day, Ms Nalinee now needs to go into a 14-day self-quarantine, meaning, she won’t be able to make a living for the next 2 weeks, or even more.

127 schools around the province were ordered close yesterday to contain the risk of the infection spreading.

The Ministry of Public Health on Tuesday sent 3 Biosafety Mobile Units to provide Covid-19 swab tests. These mobile units will be conducting the test at the parking lot of Passione Shopping Destination for 2 weeks.

Ms Nalinee was among the 394 people called by the health ministry to be tested immediately as she had been using the ‘Thai Chana’ app, a location-tracking app used to monitor the spread of the virus.

Hundreds of people queued up for swab tests on Tuesday. Most of them were rather angry than fearful of being infected by the disease. Among the angry locals was Jeerapong Wongsrikeaw, a 42-year-old factory worker who went to get tested with his mother and daughter.

“The government has been hiding information from us. This case proves that our government might not be able to handle Covid-19,” he told the Bangkok Post.

Mr Jeerapong said local people feared the Egyptian soldiers might have roamed around freely at night. “We need the government to reveal their itineraries,” he said. “The more we know the better we can protect ourselves.”

Rayong province has been damaged by the report of an infected Egyptian who broke quarantine rules to remain in their hotel and sneaked out to visit the mall last week.

Meanwhile, staffs at the D Varee Diva Central Hotel, where the Egyptian delegates stayed, as well as those who visited the shopping malls have been ordered to go into the 14-day quarantine.

“The economic situation was just starting to get better. People had started spending again and local tourists were coming back. But now, the shopping mall is closed again,” said the woman, who asked not to be named.

The health ministry found four other delegates also went to the Central department store while 1,000 more people were in the mall at the same time. Meanwhile, taxi drivers and staff at all the places visited by the Egyptian delegation have been tested and ordered into 14-day quarantine.

The ministry stresses that the Egyptian officials did not roam out at night but spent most of their time in their rooms. Inquiries also indicate the infected military officer wore a face mask while in the hotel and did not speak to anyone but his friends.

At first, these officers did not agree to being tested, however, Thai medical officials had to call the Egyptian embassy to instruct their people to cooperate and submit to the tests.

Original writer: Apinya Wipatayotin | Bangkok Post