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  • Chinese tourists inside a speedboat heading to an island in Phang-Nga province, Thailand Jan. 30, 2020.

    Chinese tourists inside a speedboat heading to an island in Phang-Nga province, Thailand Jan. 30, 2020. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 January 2020

The 2019-nCoV coronavirus has now claimed 170 lives and infected 7,711 people in China.

Thailand's health authorities Thursday announced an increase in controls to prevent further cases of 2019-nCoV-related pneumonia due to the presence of at least 10,000 Chinese tourists from Wuhan in its territory.

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"On Saturday, Suvarnabhumi airport discovered that there were about 20,000 Wuhan tourists in Thailand," Disease Control Department director Sophon Iamsirithavorn said and explained that half of the Chinese tourists would seem to have already returned to their country.

To manage the situation, the Health Ministry has the data and addresses of the 10,000 Wuhan tourists who are estimated to remain in Thailand.

The coronavirus, which originated in an illegal wildlife market in Wuhan, has now claimed 170 lives and infected 7,711 people in China.

Almost all the deaths have been in Hubei province - of which Wuhan is the capital - where 60 million people are now living under virtual lockdown, staying inside their homes and only venturing out with masks on.

Before the Chinese authorities ordered on Jan. 22 the closure of the Wuhan airport, about 1,200 tourists arrived in Thailand a day from that city.

Thai authorities indicated that there are 14 cases of coronavirus detected in the country, 8 of which remain in the hospital.​​​​​​​ Another 200 people are under medical supervision for suspected infection.

In addition to the public health impacts, Thailand is concerned about the economic consequences of the outbreak given that losses from the decline in Chinese tourism could reach US$3.2 billion, according to the local Chamber of Commerce.

The Wuhan pneumonia outbreak has also affected other Southeast Asian countries as 10 confirmed patients have been registered in Singapore, 8 in Malaysia, and 2 in Vietnam.

On Thursday, Singapore authorities repatriated 92 of their citizens who were in Wuhan. Philippines and Malaysia have closed their borders on the arrival of Chinese tourists.

In Burma (Myanmar), where no pneumonia case has been detected yet, the Government said there are temperature scanners at the border crossings with China to detect contagion and that it plans to repatriate 63 Burmese students in Wuhan.​​​​​​​

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