According to a report by the Phuket office of the Public relations Department (PR Phuket), Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) Chief Kusak Kukiattikoon explained at the meeting of the Phuket Provincial Communicable Disease Committee at Provincial Hall yesterday that the move was to prevent a shortage of hospital beds available for patients infected with COVID-19.
However, the explanation openly contradicts daily reports by the PPHO itself highlighting the surplus of hospital beds available for COVID patients on the island.
The move does come as Phuket officials find themselves under increasing pressure to return life on the island to a ‘New Normal’. It also comes one day before fully vaccinated domestic tourists are allowed to enter Phuket without having to be tested for COVID-19 on Day 5 of their stay.
According to the report, Dr Kusak noted, “From April to Sept 5, we have so far 5,254 people confirmed infected and 24 deaths.”
Of note, after seven COVID deaths confirmed over last weekend and another death confirmed on Monday, the current death toll attributed to COVID-19 infections in Phuket since Apr 3 stands at 28.
Regardless, the report continued, citing Dr Kusak as saying, “Since August until now, there are about 115 new infected cases every day, and the number of patients is close to the full capacity of hospitals, field hospitals, and hospitels.
“However, most new infected people have no symptoms or only light symptoms of the disease which we call ‘Green’ patients. They do not need to receive treatment in hospital but can do quarantine as community isolation or home isolation,” he said.
According to the Ministry of Public Health head office in Bangkok, a ‘Green’ patient is recognised as suffering mild symptoms of a sore throat; anosmia (loss of taste/smell); cough; runny nose; rashes; diarrhea; red eyes; and a body temperature over 37.5°C.
Withita Jaeng-iam, an epidemiologist at Vachira Phuket Hospital, said that a plan called the ‘District Health System’ had been drawn up, and that the plan required cooperation among officers and staff from hospitals, district public health offices and sub district health promotion hospitals.
“We will set up community isolation centers, which can be located at a temple, school or other place that people in each community find acceptable. There will also be quarantine places which can handle 200 people and have 24-hour monitoring centres where staff can be informed of patients’ conditions deteriorating.
“Comprehensive COVID-19 response teams [CCRT] will be set up to perform three duties: screen people in communities with antigen test kits, search for people who have not received vaccination injections, and control and remind people to follow the D-M-H-T-T measures,” she said.
“For people who test positive by ATKs and stay in community isolation or home isolation, if they develop more serious symptoms, staff must take them to hospital where they will be tested with RT-PCR and classified whether they are ‘yellow’ or ‘red’ patients,” Ms Withita said.
According to the PR Phuket report, it was not made clear how the ‘Community Isolation’ centres will be different from the ‘COVID-19 Care Centres’ already set up across the island.
It also was not made clear why health officials were preparing for a spike in serious infections despite the ongoing trend for the past month of the island experiencing many more infections, but mostly with the infected suffering only light symptoms.
According to the PPHO itself, Phuket hospitals are currently attending to 37 ‘red’ patients suffering serious infections, and 316 ‘yellow’ patients experiencing ‘intermediate’ symptoms.
The island currently has 2,351 hospital beds available for patients, according to the PPHO’s own daily reports.