The ministry issued the warning earlier today (Jan 29) after a Japanese coach driver was reported to have been infected with the novel coronavirus while driving a Chinese tour group from Wuhan city.
The man had not been to Wuhan, where the deadly disease originated.
“An outbreak in Thailand is possible. As in Japan, it will start with local transmission on a very limited scale and later grow to the provincial level,” said Dr Tanarak Plipat, deputy director-general of the Department of Disease Control.
“We are closely monitoring sensitive areas with large numbers of Chinese tourists such as Chiang Mai, Phuket and Bangkok, which are highly possible to be specific outbreak areas,” he said.
The Public Health Ministry convened a meeting with provincial medical personnel tomorrow (Jan 30) to prepare them for the possible provincial contagion.
People could protect themselves by washing hands their hands frequently and avoiding crowded areas, Dr Tanarak said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the government would charter commercial aircraft to evacuate Thai people from China, because a military airplane was not allowed in.
The government was waiting for permission from China and the evacuation would begin with 65 people in Wuhan, he said.
He said officials were supplying food to Thai people stranded in China.
Health authorities reported today that there were 14 confirmed local cases of infected people, and nine of them were being treated at hospitals.
In addition, 158 people were placed in the Patient Under Investigation (PUI) programme, and 62 of them were already discharged.
Elsewhere, more than 3,000 Chinese nationals flew into Cambodia from Wuhan after the coronavirus outbreak, before Chinese authorities locked down the city on Thursday (Jan 23) to contain its spread, officials said.
The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation yesterday (Jan 28) confirmed Chinese aviation data that approximately 3,078 Chinese left Wuhan city before the lockdown, the Khmer Times reported today.
The data said that 1,539 of them took direct flights to Preah Sihanouk airport and 1,539 to Siem Reap airport.
It said more than 20,000 Chinese nationals flew from Wuhan to Thailand, nearly 10,000 to Singapore, and more than 12,000 to Japan and South Korea.