Swine Flu: Phuket Immigration officials told to wear their masks

PHUKET: While Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai was waiting to welcome teachers and students who flew in from Mexico on Sunday night at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, he noticed that immigration officers were not wearing surgical masks to protect themselves, and were even asking arriving passengers to take off their masks for identification.

“From this incident, I realized that immigration officers are not cooperating in the prevention of an outbreak,” he said. “It appears as if they don’t know that they need to prevent infections.”

He said he would instruct the Disease Control Department’s Director General Dr Somchai Chakrabhand to train all immigration officers, particularly those at heavily trafficked entry points such as Bangkok, Chiangmai and Phuket, about disease control and prevention.

Immigration chiefs in Phuket could not be reached for comment today as it’s Coronation Day, a public holiday in Thailand.

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Somchai said his agency had already trained immigration officers at southern border checkpoints, including Betong, Sungai Kolok, Padang Besar, Sadao, Malang and Hat Yai, about preventive measures. These, along with Ranong, are the entry points most likely to be used by Phuket visa runners and tourists arriving into Thailand by land. However, so far only Sadao and Padang Besar have infrared thermal scanners, he said.

Yesterday, the Public Health Ministry announced tightened measures to control the spread of the A(H1N1) influenza virus by installing another 32 infrared thermal scanners nationwide. Witthaya said that he would today ask the Cabinet for funds to purchase another ten scanners after Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kajornprasart, who is overseeing the outbreak-prevention operations, instructed him to tighten measures.

He added that even though there have been no outbreaks in the Southeast Asian region, people traveling to and from neighboring countries would be checked at the borders. Travelers will have to provide every detail of their trip, and anyone arriving from Mexico would have to undergo a physical examination.

In related news, Food and Drug Administration Secretary General Dr Pipat Yingseri said the Mexican embassy had sent an official letter announcing that pork and pork products from Mexico were not contaminated by the virus and were safe for consumption. However, he said, Thailand does not import pork or pork products from Mexico – or Canada, where 200 pigs were infected with the virus.

He also said that sausages imported from the US were safe for consumption.

Phuket News
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