Governor Narong unveiled the plan last night (Sept 14) following a meeting with Pitakpol Boonyamalik, Inspector General of the Ministry of Public Health District 11 office, responsible for the seven ‘Upper Southern Thailand’ provinces, including Phuket.
Joining the meeting were Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) Chief Kusak Kukiattikoon and Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Chalermpong Sukontapol.
“Now is a crucial time for Phuket to contain the epidemic, but from the implementation of various measures, both medical and health measures and social measures, the number of [new] infected people is expected to decline accordingly,” Governor Narong said.
“We have expanded the establishment of Community Isolation centres in various subdistricts in all three districts [Kathu, Thalang and Muang Districts] to support ‘green’ patients, of which there are not less than 1,000 people [sic], and [we have] added beds at field hospitals and made more beds available in hospitals for ‘yellow’ and ‘red’ patients,” Governor Narong said.
“Now the concerns about insufficient patient beds are gone,” he said.
The assurance comes as the PPHO’s COVID-19 daily situation report for the island as of yesterday reported that of the 2,542 beds available for COVID patients across Phuket, 2,285 were already occupied by COVID patients ‒ leaving only 257, or 10.11%, still available.
Dr Pitakpol Boonyamalik, Inspector General of the Ministry of Public Health, Health District 11, noted that the rate of spread of infections in upper southern area “is very fast”, more than 1,000 people a day in Southern Thailand.
Phuket has had more than 200 new cases a day for several weeks, Dr Pitakpol admitted.
However, he added, “Although there have been many new infected cases, more than 85% have been asymptomatic or green patients.
“The patients in the ‘red’ group with severe symptoms have been very few, and the mortality rate has been very low, because most people in Phuket have received two doses of vaccine and are in the middle of the third booster dose,” he said.
Phuket so far has suffered 40 deaths attributed to COVID-19 since Apr 3. Of those, 19 deaths have occurred in the past two weeks.
The new plan unveiled to curtail the spread of infections is a three-pronged strategy.
The first goal is to identify people infected with COVID-19 still at large in the community by continuing the ‘proactive screening’ campaign by testing entire areas with antigen test kits (ATKs), Dr Pitakpol said.
“If patients [sic] are found, in case of mild symptoms we will administer medicine immediately, but if the symptoms are severe, they will be taken to hospital,” he said.
Health District 11 officers working in Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Surat Thani and Phang Nga will be brought in to help with the mass testing of communities, he added.
Dr Pitakpol made no mention of people identified as infected being required to enter forced quarantine.
However, he explained that the second “prong” in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 on the island was the opening of the ‘Aunjai Clinic’, not on Komararphat Rd in Phuket Town as inspected by Governor Narong on Monday, but at the conference hall at the still-incomplete Phuket Provincial Hall complex on the south side of Phuket Town.
“The Aunjai Clinic is to give advice on COVID problems for those who are worried, who need medicine and is the first clinic to accept COVID patients to alleviate the concerns of the people of Phuket, especially those who tested themselves by ATK and tested positive, to come for a repeat examination before entering the next treatment process [sic],” Dr Phithakphon said.
The third prong was to control the spread of large clusters of infections, Dr Pitakpol said,
“The Department of Disease Control has sent a team to take action in this matter and to prevent the spread of outbreaks in new clusters, which is a large group and includes factories, fresh markets, dense communities etc, by using ‘Bubble and Seal’ [lockdown isolation] to prevent the spread of infections from repeating again,” he noted.
Following Dr Pitakpol’s announcement that the Aunjai Clinic ‒ with ‘aunjai’ in Thai meaning “peace of mind” ‒ will open at the still-incomplete Phuket Provincial Hall complex on Tha Kraeng Rd, Phuket officials last night published a notice announcing that the clinic will open at the newly chosen site today (Sept 15).
The announcement came just 24 hours after Phuket officials reported Governor Narong inspecting a building on Komaraphat Rd near Vachira Phuket Hospital that was touted as to serve as the Aunjai Clinic venue.
The latest announcement last night made no mention of whether or not the site on Komaraphat Rd will serve as another Aunjai Clinic or not.
The aim of the Aunjai Clinic is to “provide advice on COVID-19 problems and refer patients to reduce stress and build confidence among patients,” the announcement read.
In the announcement, Governor Natong Woonciew noted that the clinic provides “a convenient place for patients infected with COVID-19 who do not know who to turn to consult if they find themselves infected”.
“Aunjai Clinic will be another place which the province [provincial government] has set up to be the first centre to take care of people who are sick with COVID, especially those who buy equipment to detect infection by themselves,” Governor Narong said.
“These people, when tested and found themselves infected, do not know what to do… The clinic will have staff to give advice, check symptoms, and even check x-rays of the lungs and administer medication for those with light symptoms,” he continued.
“[Staff at the clinic] will consider the treatment and referral as to where the patient should be sent for treatment, at a hospital, field hospital, Community Isolation centre or return to recover at home,” Governor Narong added.
For more information about the Aunjai Clinic, people were advised to call the clinic on Tel: 076-254188 through 076-254207 (20 lines). The lines are open 24 hours a day.
It was not explained why such a clinic would be needed unless people in the community who knew they had tested positive for COVID-19 were not presenting themselves to local health officials.
Phuket officials have yet to publicly recognise that people who had tested positive for COVID-19 may not be reporting themselves to avoid being ordered to enter forced quarantine at a Community Isolation centre or other COVID detainment facility.
Of note, the most recent announcements above coinciding with the opening of the Aunjai Clinic are now opening the door for local health officials to allow people suffering light symptoms or no symptoms of infection at all to self-quarantine at home ‒ a policy announced by PPHO Chief Kusak last week.