The teams have been deployed under the new strategy to curtail the rising number of infections across the island, which have risen from 1,186 on Aug 1 to 9,004 as of yesterday (Sept 20).
Before today, the Phuket CCR teams had already set up in Patong, providing assistance to people in the Nanai Rd area over the weekend, and another team arrived at the sea gypsy village in Rawai yesterday.
At the sea gypsy village the team members, comprising staff from the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO), Chalong Hospital, Vachira Phuket Hospital and Rawai Municipality, conducted COVID tests, administered vaccination injections and gave advice about self-care with COVID-19 and how to prevent contracting the disease. Officers from the Surat Thani Provincial Public Health Office also joined the efforts.
Phuket Governor unveiled the new strategy to battle the rising number of COVID infections last Wednesday, with Pitakpol Boonyamalik, Inspector General of the Ministry of Public Health District 11 office, explaining the new three-prong campaign.
As Chief of the Ministry of Public Health District 11 office, Mr Pitakpol is the leading Ministry of Public Health official responsible for the seven ‘Upper Southern Thailand’ provinces, including Phuket. Of note, medical officers and staff from the Region 11 office have been assigned to support the Phuket CCR teams conduct the mass testing.
Phuket has had more than 200 new cases a day for weeks, Dr Pitakpol admitted when announcing the new strategy. 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.
Regardless, Phuket this month has suffered its worst number of COVID deaths since the outbreak began. The PPHO yesterday reported five new deaths attributed to COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths in Phuket attributed to COVID-19 since Apr 3 to 58. Of those, 38 deaths occurred this month, with 19 deaths in the past week alone.
Also vital to the new strategy is the opening of the ‘Aunjai Clinic’ at the conference hall at the still-incomplete Phuket Provincial Hall complex on Tha Kraeng Rd, on the south side of Phuket Town (see map below).
The clinic, named with ‘aunjai’ in Thai meaning ‘peace of mind’, has 20 lines open that local residents can call for advice on what to do if they test positive for COVID after using an antigen test kit (ATK) independently, not as part of a mass screening campaign.
With Mr Pitak last week confirming that 85% of new infections being asymptomatic, many people are now allowed to self-isolate at home instead of occupying much-needed hospital beds.
Of note, immediately after the announcement by Dr Pitak, the PPHO in its daily COVID situation report for the island marked that the number of patients designated as ‘Green’ had fallen overnight by 310, from 711 to 401. No public statement from Phuket officials marked the notable fall in the number of patients designated ‘green’, but the daily report for that day (Sept 16) also marked the total number of hospital beds actually occupied by COVID patients in Phuket had also fallen, by 381, from 2,266 to 1,885.
As of today, the PPHO has reported that 1,269 remain in quarantine at ‘COVID-19 Care Centres’ set up across the island.
There are 4,074 currently under medical care or supervision, but only 49 in intensive care units, of which 35 are designated ‘Red’ patients - with 14 beds still available.
A further 418 patients remain in hospital isolation units. Of those, 347 patients are designated ‘Yellow’ patients ‒ with 71 beds still available.
In total 1,787 people are under care at field hospitals and ‘hospitels’. Field hospitals in Phuket currently have 370 patients, with 96 beds still spare, and hospitels have 1,181 people in care, with 140 beds still available.
Dr Chalermpong Sukontapol, Director of Vachira Phuket Hospital, yesterday noted, “The important thing is that when an infected person is found, they must be brought into the treatment system immediately.”
Dr Chalermpong described the Aunjai Clinic as “a comprehensive management center for COVID-19 patients”.
The clinic has been set up as a multi-agency effort, with the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor) providing B1.2 million towards setting up the facilities. It has not been reported how much funding the Phuket Provincial Government has put towards the project, but the phone services have been provided by TOT Public Company Limited and the Phuket Provincial office of the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) have provided the computing services.
“The objective is to manage the number of infected people in the community, including expanding opportunities for all infected people to access fast and convenient services that appropriately appraise the severity of symptoms and risk factors,” Dr Chalermpong said.
“The centre includes facilities such as a centre where infected people can wait until appropriate quarantine accommodation can be provided. The clinic also provides a single point of contact for services where people can call with enquiries and have their needs coordinated. The centre includes a ‘One stop service call center’ with 20 lines available, at 076-254200,” he added.
“Those with positive ATK results can have their test results confirmed, they can undergo medical examination and diagnosis, including chest x-rays, and receive basic treatment by medical personnel,” Dr Chalermpong explained.
“In cases that can be quarantined at home, in the community isolation centres, at hotels [or ‘hospitels’], there will be a team to help treat initial symptoms. This includes giving patients medication such as Favipiravir in necessary cases, along with monitoring symptoms and giving advice every day,” he said.
The third prong in the new strategy is the deployment of third-dose ‘booster’ vaccination injections, which began in earnest last week. As of today (Sept 21), 66,383 people in Phuket had received their third-dose ‘booster’ shot.
Meanwhile, also as of today, 426,387 people have received just one vaccination injection, while 389,163 have received two vaccination injections.
The PPHO in its detailed report available online marks its target population in Phuket to be vaccinated as 547,584, not 466.587 as promoted by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department.