Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha, who is in charge of handling Thai workers who returned from working illegally in South Korea under an amnesty programme, said health authorities have the identities and contact details of this group of passengers, which can be used to track them down.
“But we’re advising them to report to provincial health authorities within three days. If they don’t cooperate, we have no choice but to strictly enforce the laws. If arrested, they face a one-year jail term and a fine of 200,000 baht,” he said.
Under the new screening process, all Thai and foreign passengers from South Korea who pass initial health checks will be questioned and divided into groups for monitoring.
Illegal workers known as phi noi (“little ghosts”) with travel history to Daegu and North Gyeongsang will be quarantined at a navy facility in Chon Buri’s Sattahip district.
Returning illegal workers who are deemed less of a risk will be sent to regional screening venues to determine if they should be placed in state-designated quarantine venues, or sent home for self-quarantine.
Other passengers will be advised to perform a 14-day self-quarantine and required to report their condition to health officials every day.
The added screening and health reporting requirements are also applied to those coming from other high-risk zones announced by the ministry, namely China, Hong Kong, Macau, Italy and Iran.
The government’s readiness to cope with the influx of illegal Thai workers from COVID-19 hit-South Korea has been criticised after posts and reports on social media claim several returnees ignored requests to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Thanarak Plipat, deputy chief of the Department of Disease Control, said yesterday he suspected it was due to misunderstandings about the new screening process and noted that screening for the other four flights carrying migrants home to Thailand proceeded without any incident.
As of Sunday evening, a total of 143 illegal Thai workers from South Korea had been sent to the navy facility in Sattahip for quarantine.
The first batch of 60 arrived there late on Saturday night; 59 boarded the buses and another woman took a taxi from the airport to join the group later.
The Royal Thai Navy has prepared six buildings at the reception centre to accommodate those from Daegu and North Gyeongsang. The facility is equipped to accommodate up to 780 returnees.
The facility, guarded around the clock by naval personnel, was used to quarantine 138 Thais who returned from China’s Wuhan last month.
Vice Adm Thanee Kaewkao, chief of the Naval Civil Affairs Department, said the same quarantine process applied to the Thais from the Chinese city will be used for the new group. It will meet the standard set by the Public Health Ministry, he said.
The Public Health Ministry on Sunday said the number of COVID-19 cases remained at 50 while two more patients were discharged.