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Israeli faces Thailand jail time after leaving quarantine, evading police for 5 days

Ohad Baruch reportedly left his hotel without waiting for COVID test result, which came back positive; he traveled to Pattaya and Koh Samui before turning himself in

Illustrative: Sailboats sit anchored off Choeng Mon beach on the resort island of Koh Samui, Thailand, on October 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Adam Schreck)
Illustrative: Sailboats sit anchored off Choeng Mon beach on the resort island of Koh Samui, Thailand, on October 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Adam Schreck)

An Israeli tourist broke his mandatory COVID-19 quarantine in Thailand and sparked a nationwide manhunt that ended with him turning himself in to authorities and possibly facing up to two years in jail, local media reported Wednesday.

Ohad Baruch, 29, arrived in Thailand last Friday and was placed in 24-hour quarantine in his Bangkok hotel until the receipt of a PCR test result, in line with the country’s regulations.

But Baruch left the hotel with his luggage without waiting for the result, which confirmed that he was positive for COVID-19, Thai media outlets reported.

He traveled by taxi to the city of Pattaya, where CCTV footage showed him trying to check in at a hotel but being rejected because he refused to show his passport. On Saturday, he called the Bangkok hotel and said he was visiting a friend at a hospital and would return later that day, which didn’t happen.

Baruch then reportedly turned off his phone on Saturday night and traveled back to Bangkok and then to the southern island of Koh Samui.

After the matter was widely reported in the media on Wednesday, Baruch reportedly called the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok and said he wanted to turn himself in. The embassy coordinated with Thai police, who arrested the tourist at a local restaurant. Local media published a photo of Baruch, sitting on a restaurant chair, alongside police officers.

He now faces the potential charge of failing to comply with disease control measures and emergency decrees, which carries a punishment of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 40,000 baht ($1,200). He could also be charged with failing to stay in places where tourists were permitted to stay, which carries a fine of up to 5,000 baht ($150).

Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed to the Walla news website that is was following the case and was in contact with the Israeli consul and Thai authorities. That report said Baruch is claiming there was a misunderstanding and that he has since tested negative in another test.

Local media has since reported that Baruch was taken to a hospital for quarantine and that he has tested negative but will remain in isolation for 10 days until a second test.

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