Thai Officials: Train Passenger Tested COVID-19 Positive after Death

Mariyam Ahmad and Matahari Ismail
Pattani and Narathiwat, Thailand
200401-TH-COVID-railway-1000.jpg A staff member of State Railway of Thailand cleans a passenger car on a train at the Thap Sakae station in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, March 31, 2020.
Courtesy of the State Railway of Thailand

Thai state railway officials scrambled on Wednesday to find passengers who were near a 57-year-old man who collapsed and died aboard a south-bound train from Bangkok, as authorities said that an after-death test confirmed he had COVID-19.

Authorities made the confirmation as the nation’s capital imposed tighter measures to impede the spread of the coronavirus, including restrictions on operations of supermarkets, food stalls, restaurants and convenience stores from 5 a.m. until midnight, starting on Wednesday.

The man boarded the train bound for the Thai Deep South after landing at Bangkok’s main international airport on a flight from Pakistan, officials said.

“Anant Saho died at 10:15 p.m. on March 30 ... Thap Sakae Hospital sent his specimen for COVID-19 test at a clinical lab, which found he was COVID-19 positive,” Preeda Sukjai, the chief of Thap Sakae, a district in Prachuap Khiri Khan province south of the capital, said in a statement, referring to the passenger who was found unconscious outside a toilet on the train heading to the far southern province of Narathiwat.

Preeda said the man’s body was buried at a cemetery in Thap Sakae “in accordance with Muslim and medical practice.” He did not elaborate.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Thai Public Health Ministry announced 120 new coronavirus infections, taking the nation’s total cases to 1,771, almost half of whom were recorded in Bangkok.

Officials also confirmed two deaths that took pandemic-related fatalities so far to 12, excluding the man who died on the train and another man who also died of COVID-19 in the Deep South province of Pattani.

The man on the train collapsed in front of the restroom and was taken to the Thap Sakae Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Voravuth Mala, deputy governor of State Railway of Thailand (SRT), said in a statement. Local authorities swabbed fluid from the man’s corpse for COVID-19 tests, which came back positive on Wednesday.

Voravuth said his office had sent out to health authorities the names of 15 passengers aboard the same carriage with Anant. The whereabouts of those passengers remain unknown, authorities said.

“We also quarantined 11 people who were near him, including two train staff members in Bangkok, a security guard, seven stewards and a railway police officer,” he said.

Thailand, which declared a state of emergency that took effect on March 26, has closed its borders to almost all foreigners, except for diplomats. It requires anyone arriving in the country to present a health certificate and take a 14-day self-quarantine.

Voravuth said Anant had received a health certificate and a fit-to-fly certificate from a Pakistani hospital on March 26. It is not clear when Anant arrived in Bangkok but authorities said he booked a train ticket on March 29 and boarded the train the next day.

Train staffers reported that the man was coughing and vomited during the railway ride but insisted on pushing through with his journey, Voravuth said.

The man’s death came before the SRT was to announce on Wednesday that it was halting all trains to the Deep South, including the provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Songkhla, to contain virus spread.

Globally, 45,497 people have died and more than 911,000 have been infected, according to the latest data compiled by disease experts at Johns Hopkins University in the United States.


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