PM urges return to ‘normality’ after scare

by Reprintted from Bangkok Post

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has called on residents in Rayong to resume their normal lives while Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha confirmed no local transmissions had turned up in the province after an infected Egyptian soldier stayed there without being quarantined.

The premier on Wednesday travelled to Rayong from Bangkok by helicopter to observe disease investigations and Covid-19 tests for the general public.

Gen Prayut and his entourage, including Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul visited D Varee Diva Central Rayong and Passione Shopping Destination mall — the places where the infected soldier spent time while staying in Rayong. Later, the PM visited Star Market to offer moral support to local people.

The prime minister apologised to the people of Rayong and promised them this kind of event “would not happen again”, referring to the infected soldier who was not in quarantine while staying in the province.

He called on people to remain confident in the public health system and doctors, asserting there would be no more VIPs going astray and that everyone must be tested for the virus.

Gen Prayut said he would take responsibility for the incident and urged everyone sides to treat the Rayong event as a lesson. The premier called on the media to avoid running news reports that stir up nationwide panic and suggested they focus on reporting the fact that there have been no new local transmissions in the country.

Meanwhile, business people and members of the general public in Rayong on Wednesday went to Government House to submit a petition to the prime minister, asking for the cancellation of 14-day quarantine exemptions for foreign visitors.

One representative, Thatchaya Chuangsanthat, said the people of Rayong always cooperated with the government’s preventive measures against Covid-19 but now they faced discrimination.

They started to get back on track after the government relaxed lockdown measures and no community infection had been detected for over 100 days, she said.

“The people of Rayong have lived without much income for the past four to five months but we accepted the situation and complied with every measure,” Ms Thatchaya said.

“But we could not accept that the government and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration allowed foreigners in without state quarantining.

“We do not want an apology. We want the government to respond to what happened and treat everyone equally.”

Ms Thatchaya added she planned to go to the Egyptian embassy in Bangkok to demand answers from them.

The Rayong Chamber of Commerce is also calling for an apology from the government and moves to save the tourism sector, after mass hotel cancellations were sparked by fears of catching coronavirus.

Provincial trade body chairman Noppadol Tangsongcharoen said on Wednesday local operators needed measures to aid their businesses, not just a government apology .

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