The 24 officers were swab tested on Sunday as soon as it was confirmed that one of their fellow officers had been confirmed as infected, Patong Police Chief Col Aganit Danpitaksat (first name previously spelled as Akkanit or Akanit) told The Phuket News.
The officers were placed in quarantine at the Sleep With Me hotel in Patong yesterday, he added.
The hotel has been used for months as an official location for keeping people suspected of being infected under observation.
“All 24 officers initially tested negative for the virus, but they have been placed in quarantine as a precaution. I want them under observation for at least the next seven days just in case,” Col Aganit explained.
“I want them to be tested again later to make sure they are all clear,” he said.
A further 41 Patong Police officers were to be tested today (May 12), also as a precaution, Col Aganit added.
“These 41 officers did not have close contact with the officer who is infected. They worked at different places and were rarely near him, but we want them swab tested to determine whether any of them have contracted COVID-19. I will know their test results in the next two days,” Col Aganit said.
However, the 24 officers now in quarantine did work closely with the infected officer, Col Aganit noted.
“The 24 officers had high-risk contact [with the patient]. They worked at the same check point, joined activities together, ate at the same table and worked closely together at the police station before the officer was confirmed as infected,” he said.
The remaining 146 officers stationed at Patong Police Station are not deemed as at risk, he added.
The officer now confirmed as infected started feeling unwell and finally excused himself from work to present himself at Vachira Phuket Hospital last Thursday (May 7), Col Aganit noted.
Col Aganit added it had yet to be confirmed how the officer had contracted the virus, but noted that police officers are on the frontline in enforcing the restrictions to prevent the virus from spreading.
“It is difficult to track down exactly how he became infected as the officer in question was always at risk. Every day for the past two months he had been patrolling areas and in close contact with other Thais, labourers and foreign tourists,” he said.
“All police officers are at risk, whether on patrol or at a checkpoint. They interface with thousands of people every day, and some of these people might be infected. Further, it is our job to help teams of health officials to identify people who are actually infected.”
Health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are strongly observed at Patong Police Station, Col Aganit assured.
“Everyone who enters the police station must be checked. They must wear a face mask and they must use the alcohol santiser provided and we check their body temperature,” he said.
“At the end of each day, all desks and chairs are cleaned with disinfectant, and the whole inside of the police station, including the entrance, is sprayed with disinfectant every three days,” Col Aganit explained.
“We have been doing this for two months already,” he added.
Patong Police Chief Col Aganit was open and transparent in explaining the circumstances involved in the officer being confirmed as infected and the action being taken to help prevent any further spread of the disease
In contrast, the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department and the Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO), which currently serves as the “Phuket Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Incident Command Centre” headed by Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana, on Sunday – and still so far – have instead only reported the police officer as, “A Thai man, 29, a public servant who lived in the Patong area.”
The officer was marked as “Case 224”. It was reported that he first became ill on May 2.
As of today (May 12), both official agencies and the Governor had yet to admit that Case 224 was a police officer in Patong.
Of note, for the first time since the outbreak began, the daily national COVID-19 situation report in Bangkok yesterday failed to include Phuket’s four new confirmed cases as reported on Sunday.
Even the meeting of the Phuket Communicable Disease Committee this morning did not publicly discuss the issue.
When called and asked what action, if any, was to be taken in the areas where the four new cases had been confirmed on Sunday, PPHO Chief Dr Thanit yesterday failed to mention to The Phuket News that the Patong case was a police officer.
All four cases reported as confirmed last Sunday were in different areas on the island, and not in any areas under lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus.
The four areas of the cases reported on Sunday were identified at Soi Pasak 4 in Moo 4, Cherng Talay; Soi Nasua off Chao Fa West Rd in Moo 4, Wichit; an undisclosed address in Moo 3, Wichit, and in Patong. (Currently the only location in Patong still under lockdown is the Bangla Rd nightlife area.)
However, Phuket health chief Dr Thanit told The Phuket News yesterday, “We have already screened those areas and we have investigated the people at risk who were close to these four cases. I will give updates about the new four cases later.”
Of the five areas where lockdowns were extended due to confirmed cases in those areas at the time the “Tambon Lockdown” was lifted on May 30, the lockdown in Soi Bang Chee Lao in Moo 2, Rassada, was lifted on Friday (May 8), Rassada Mayor Phudit Raksaraj confirmed to The Phuket News yesterday.
Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipattana announced on Sunday that the lockdown in Moo Baan Prachasamakhee in Koh Kaew will be lifted on tomorrow (May 13).
Dr Thanit yesterday confirmed that the lockdown restrictions in place in Bang Tao, technically Moo Baan 2, 3 and 5 in Cherng Talay, are set to be lifted on Thursday (May 14) – as long as there are no new confirmed infections in those areas.