Vol: 33 May - June 2015
Tourism Update: MERS Under Control
The Fiscal Policy Office (FPO) claims that Thailand’s ability to control MERS is higher compared to the SARS epidemic of 2002, as essential information is now being shared faster worldwide.

As outbreaks of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have already killed 23 people and sickened more than 160 in South Korea, and around the world related deaths have already been put at 458, the Fiscal Policy Office (FPO) has expressed the view that Thailand will be able to prevent an outbreak of the MERS in this country. The FPO claims that the ability to control the deadly disease is higher now compared to the SARS epidemic of 2002, as essential information is shared faster worldwide. Prevention measures are implemented more quickly and more effectively now, and all international airports in Thailand have checkpoints where arriving passengers from Middle Eastern nations and South Korea can be checked for any signs of sickness.

The Ministry of Public Health has also established quarantine and special care systems for those infected with MERS, following the World Health Organisation’s advice. WHO has also praised Thailand for its excellent measures to deal with the infection risks. No country has issued a travel advisory against coming to Thailand, as Hong Kong has in relation to South Korea.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has urged the public not to panic following the first confirmed case of the deadly MERS virus in the country. Earlier, the Disease Control Department said it was screening travellers at 67 points of entry.

“We are checking 67 ports including land, sea and air,” said department Director-General Sophon Mekthon. “We've told all hospitals in Thailand to be on alert. Those who come back from the Middle East and South Korea must be checked thoroughly.”

The Ministry of Public Health announced on June 18th, 2015, about the first case of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), after a 75 year-old Omani national was quarantined at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Thailand’s Nonthaburi province. As of June 22nd, 2015, there have been no new cases of MERS infection in the country, according to the Ministry of Public Health. After testing positive by two laboratories, the patient is in quarantine and being closely monitored. The Omani patient’s symptom has now improved.

Preventative Measures

A number of key players in Thailand have announced extra measures to prevent the spread of the MERS virus, with agencies joining forces to ensure the safety of all stakeholders. Thailand, via the measures of the Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited (AOT), who operates the six international airports comprising of Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket, and Hat Yai, closely monitor incoming passengers by setting up temperature monitoring stations (thermoscans), and notify incoming passengers the measures taken by the Thai government and airlines.

Bangkok’s gateway hub has also worked closely with various agencies concerned including the Immigration Division 2, the Customs Bureau and the Airline Operators Committee (AOC) on common guidelines and measures to control the spread of the outbreak into Thailand. Airport medical teams are also on standby to monitor visitors coming countries affected by MERS and protective gear, including surgical masks, have been made available.

Thai Airways International (THAI) is also collaborating with the Ministry of the Public Health to closely monitor the situation and take preventative measures in relation to aircraft service provision and safety. THAI’s preventive MERS measures include screening passengers before check-in and in some cases requiring a doctor’s letter of health certification, monitoring passengers during the flight, spraying an antibacterial solution inside the aircraft while parked at the airport, and deep cleaning and disinfecting 36 touch points in the passenger cabin. Personal protective equipment will also be carried on board and staff will be educated about preventive health care, while raw catering materials will be carefully selected and clean meal preparation methods used to avoid the risk of infection.

Advice to MICE Travellers

The Department of Disease Control, under the Royal Thai Ministry of Public Health, advises all travellers who have visited a MERS CoV-affected area within the past two weeks to call the department hotline on 1422 if they develop influenza-like symptoms such as a fever, acute respiratory tract infection, or cough. Travellers with these symptoms are also advised to visit a hospital and inform their travel history to the physician.

Operation of MICE Industry

International stakeholders are advised that Thailand’s MICE industry continues to operate as normal, and all hotels, venues and attractions are open and ready to welcome MICE travellers. As the government’s flagship body for the MICE sector, TCEB will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates to all stakeholders.

Should travellers require any further information or assistance, please call:
TCEB office: +66 (0)2 694 6000
TCEB call centre: 1105 (within Thailand only)
Mr. Jamikorn Sunthornsaratul: +66 (0)2 694 6110
Email: contact info@tceb.or.th
Online: www.tceb.or.th