Joining Gen Chakthip yesterday was national police deputy Lt Gen Damrongsak Kittipraphat, with both top-ranking police officials being welcomed by Police Region 8 Commander Lt Gen Jirawat Thippayachan, Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Rungrote Thakurapunyasiri and Tourist Police Region 3 Commander Maj Gen Kritsak Songmoonnak, among other officers.
“We came to encourage all officers, not only police, and to see the preparations for this tough situation,” Lt Gen Damrongsak said.
“From the Phuket Provincial Commander’s explanation, the management and working plan is quite good, but we want officers to take more proactive action to solve the problem of the [COVID-19] virus spreading as soon as possible,” he added.
“Currently, there are high number of infected in Phuket. We want to suggest that those who violate the notice should be warned first, and any repeat violations met with law enforcement. I also want police to facilitate those catching flights out of Phuket, which are still available until April 10,” he added.
During the visit, officials at the checkpoint were handed personal protection equipment, including face shields, face masks, groves and hand sanitiser.
While the officers were working, regular citizens were still queuing up to be allowed through the checkpoint in the hope of being allowed through. Some were, others weren’t.
Confusion and panic followed after the order to close the bridges was issued on Sunday night, announcing that only emergency vehicles and personnel, and those delivering medical equipment and supplies will be allowed through the checkpoint from midnight Sunday night.
Hundreds of people massed at the checkpoint, with scores of people wanting to leave the island to get home, and scores of people wanting to get back on the island to come home.
The confusion saw Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana and Vice Governor Supoj Rotreuang Na Nongkhai arriving in person in the middle of the Sunday night to quell the situation, with many people demanding the officers to let them through.
“Many of the people explained that the order was issued so quickly that they had no time to prepare,” V/Governor Supoj explained.
“We explained why we need to close the bridge to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The number of people infected in Phuket is quite high, so we have to close the bridges for safety,” he said.
A compromise was reached, with many people who could prove they need to get off the island to get home, or back on the island because they lived or worked here, being permitted to pass.
“But every single one of them was screened for possible infection,” V/Gov Supoj said.
At last report, and even during Gen Chakthip’s visit yesterday, that comprise was still being upheld.
Additional reporting by Eakkapop Thongtub