Governor Narong made the policy clear at a special meeting held at the new Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday (Jan 9).
The focus is to be on organising treatment at home, in hotel accommodation or in “community isolation” centres in order to support hospitals in the treatment of “Yellow” and “Red” patients and to ensure the rising number of cases does not affect the treatment of other patients, Governor Narong said.
At the meeting, Dr Kusak Kukiattikoon, Chief of the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO), said that Phuket does not have enough hospital beds to cope with the rising number of infections.
“Phuket province has had an average infection rate in the past seven days equal to 340 cases and is likely to increase significantly,” Dr Kusak said.
Of note, the daily COVID situation report issued by the PPHO itself reported 385 new local transimissions (not including tourist arrivals testing positive) on Friday, 416 new local cases on Saturday and 513 new local cases yesterday (Jan 9).
“The number of infected people in the group of foreign travelers has been continuously increasing, both in the form of Test & GO and Phuket Sandbox, as well as increasing in the number of infections in provincial areas,” Dr Kusak said.
“The infected persons were mostly in close contact with confirmed cases, attending joint activities or work in close contact with tourists or at tourist attractions,” he added.
“And there is a link to the outbreak in the Test & Go group. From random strain testing of samples in the province, Omicron has been found to be 66.3% of infections,” he said.
“The occupancy rate of patient beds has increased considerably. There is an insufficient number of beds to support the number of patients, but the mortality rate has decreased,” he added.
Of note, Phuket officials have yet to report a single COVID death this month.
Also of note, the PPHO daily COVID situation report for yesterday marked that of 2,525 hospital beds in total available, 1,540 (60.99%) were occupied.
“The local quarantine rooms for the quarantine of high-risk contacts have become inadequate,” Dr Kusak said.
Dr Kusak repeated all the national-level announcements that have been repeated by all government agencies since Friday.
The Ministry of Health has elevated the national COVID alert to Level 4. People are asked to refrain from entering at-risk places, such as crowded “restaurants” and venues with poor ventilation.
People in contact with others returning from other provinces are urged to self-monitor their health for 14 days and where possible to work from home for the next 14 days.
Where necessary, people are urged to follow the government’s “treat at home” policy, he said.
All venues are to strictly follow the “COVID Free Setting” measures, he added.
Any “factories” (usually used to refer to worksites and workplaces) where infections are found will face “Bubble & Seal” measures, Dr Kusak said.
Provincial officials will continue following the national instructions to monitor the area for COVID infections through ATK testing, he said.
They will also continue to push the mass vaccination campaign, he added.
Of note, as PPHO Chief, Dr Kusak did not recognise the massive slowdown in the rollout of vaccinations in Phuket over the past two months, despite continual announcements by local hospitals calling for people to register to receive their third-dose “booster shots” in a piecemeal campaign targetting very specific sections of the community.
Dr Kusak did recognise that the mass vaccination campaign was still “focussing on” people at greater risk of developing serious symptoms of infection (the “608 Group”).
Officials were to “prepare a system to treat patients infected with COVID, both in the hospital, field hospital, Community Isolation, Alternative Quarantine, Hotel Isolation and Home Isolation”, he said.
At the meeting it was proposed to open ‘Aunjai Clinic Centres’ in every district on the island (Kathu, Thalang and Mueang) “to provide comprehensive and thorough care for the people”.
At the meeting Governor Narong repeated the national announcement by the CCSA on Friday that entertainment venues, including pubs, bars and karaoke venues, can now open as “restaurants” as long as they register and receive approval from the Provincial Communicable Disease Committee before Jan 15.
It is not clear whether this new national rule will have any effect in Phuket, as such businesses in Phuket have already long been open and trading as “restaurants” before the announcement by the CCSA on Friday.
“We have a green light, meaning that you can drink alcohol in restaurants, but only until 9pm and the venues must have passed SHA Plus and ‘Thai Stop Covid-19 2 Plus standards’ and be approved by the Provincial Communicable Disease Committee,” he said.
“The Provincial Communicable Disease Committee will strictly control the opening [of such venues]. If they do not do it right, there will be serious measures, including prosecutions, orders to close and orders to suspend licenses,” he added.
The opening of such venues will be discussed at a meeting today (Jan 10), Governor Narong said.