Plenty of suspicions about the veracity of the figures published each day in the daily COVID situation report for Phuket have been abound for a long time, yet this past week those suspicions were confirmed by none other than the official reports themselves.
The daily COVID situation report for last Sunday marked four deaths attributed to COVID-19. However, as marked by the notice announcing the details of those four deaths, three of the four cases were assigned a “Case Number” that was issued only in the preceding 24 hours – the same 24-hour period that the death was recognised.
On that information alone, officials may claim that they had no idea that these three were infected with COVID-19 until their bodies were brought to a hospital. But as the case of the 24-year-old from Phuket Prison dying after contracting COVID-19 highlights, at the time of his death he was already under care at Thalang Hospital after being diagnosed as COVID positive during testing at the prison on Sept 4 – some two weeks earlier.
The only other two explanations Phuket officials could offer are: 1) the victims died instantly from COVID-19, not exactly a plausible explanation considering the worldwide scientific data available; or 2) they could admit that the case numbers and number of people “confirmed” as infected in the daily report each day include cases that health officials already knew about long before and for whatever reason decided to not add them in the daily total at the time.
Of note, the death of the 24-year-old inmate was one of the three deaths reported by officials last Sunday. Oddly, and make of this what you will, the case numbers for the deaths for the next day, Monday, were dropped from the notice posted the next day. By coincidence, publicly posting the ‘death details notice’ on Monday, when the case numbers were not included, took officials an extra 12 hours.
Yet, the case numbers returned to the death details notice posted on Tuesday, when normal service resumed – except for one of the five deaths recognised in a report yesterday.
That was not the only evidence gifted to reality-based sceptics this week. The progress report by health officials of the nine Phuket Comprehensive COVID-19 Response teams (Phuket CCR) deployed to test people in communities across the island also exposed further “oddities” in the daily report.
The teams tested 1,581 people on Tuesday (Sept 21) by using antigen test kits (ATKs), with 97 returning positive results. The teams tested a further 2,593 people on Wednesday (Sept 22), with 115 returning positive results.
However, the daily report for Tuesday (Sept 21) marked only 93 cases confirmed positive by ATK, a large spike compared with the usual numbers, indicating that the CCR teams efforts had been included, but only a further 35 cases were confirmed as ATK positive in the daily situation report on Wednesday (Sept 22).
That allows for only two more people to be confirmed positive by ATK over three entire days. The only way that is possible is that if the checkpoint onto the island and every other official are no longer testing for COVID while the CCR teams are conducting their tests. It also discounts any people testing positive by ATK at home and contacting the much-trumpeted Aunjai Clinic (“Peace of Mind Clinic”) set up at the conference hall of the still-incomplete “new” Provincial Hall on the south side of Phuket Town, at a cost of at least B1.2 million.
The numbers just aren’t adding up, and yet it is not surprising anyone. All this harks back to “Patient 26” last year, for those Phuket readers who remember.
Patient 26 was a Chinese national confirmed as infected with COVID-19 in Phuket in February last year, at a time when no officials would publicly confirm that the virus was on the island.
Deputy Director-General of the national Department of Disease Control (DDC) Dr Kajohnsak Kaewjarus flew to Phuket from Bangkok expressly to face the press, but only refused to confirm or deny whether the Chinese tourist had been confirmed as infected with COVID.
Dr Kajohnsak claimed he had inspected and checked the report issued by the DDC marking the COVID infection, but dismissed it as an internal report that was not for public release.
In short, what health officials know that may directly affect public health – and an individual’s safety – is for them to decide. They will tell us what we are worthy of knowing.
With that understanding of public policy of hiding vital information about the pandemic in Thailand, and specifically in Phuket, officials might as well learn one more thing: If you’re going to… let’s not say lie, let’s just say “manage”… statistics being reported, you have to “manage” all of them. Otherwise it just looks stupid.