The Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok reported both cases last Saturday (Nov 7), but immediately launched a track and trace campaign only for an Indian man staying in Krabi who passed through Phuket. The man had dinner with a friend in Patong before boarding a Thai AirAsia flight north to enjoy a short holiday in Chiang Mai and Loy Krathong festivities in Sukhothai.
The Indian man, who had travelled to Phi Phi Island before his visit to Phuket, was confirmed as infected with COVID-19 only after he had returned to Krabi and undergone medical tests for his work permit on Nov 4. The man, 37, works at a restaurant.
While the hunt for suspected subsequent infections from the Indian man went into overdrive, along with a blitz of government reports highlighting the efforts undertaken to contain any spread of COVID-19, officials have been silent on any explanation of how the 38-year-old man from the Netherlands came to be infected in Phuket.
According to the CCSA report last Saturday, the Dutch national tested positive for COVID-19 in Phuket. The man was reported as currently in care at an Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) venue in Phuket, but no other details were made available.
According to a report by the Bangkok Post, the Dutch national arrived from his home country on Nov 1 and stayed at an ASQ facility in Phuket. He tested positive last Thursday (Nov 5) with no symptoms, and was admitted to a private hospital.
Phuket Public Health Office (PPHO) Chief Dr Thanit Sermkaew has blankly refused to provide any details about how the Dutchman became infected in Phuket, or why the Dutchman had been allowed to enter Phuket just four days after entering the country.
Currently, according to all public information announcements by national health officials, and even the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), all foreigners entering the country must observe a mandatory 14-day quarantine period at an approved venue in Bangkok before being allowed to travel to any other parts of the country.
“Please follow the details from the CCSA only,” was all Dr Thanit would say to The Phuket News about the case.
As of yesterday, five days after the Dutchman was confirmed as infected, the CCSA had yet to explain any such details.
“Don’t worry. Phuket is far from the risk of COVID-19 spreading,” Dr Thanit assured.
Phuket Governor Narong Woonchiew so far has not made any public statements about either the Indian man or the Dutchman.
Phuket Vice Governor Phichet Panaphong, who has been tasked with overseeing all COVID-19 operations in Phuket, refused to comment.
However, Vice Governor Phichet did confirm that PPHO Chief Dr Thanit was authorised to comment on COVID-19 measures implemented in Phuket, and directed The Phuket News to ask Dr Thanit for details.
Dr Thanit repeatedly declined to explain any details of the COVID-19 management plan in Phuket, which earlier this year was touted by national health officials as to be used as the ‘model’ for all other provinces in the country to follow.
Dr Thanit even refused to give some indication of what would be required before officials would consider lockdown measures again. “If that happened, I am not the person to make any decisions about closing down any area in Phuket. That is for the CCSA to decide,” he said.
“We do everything according to the procedures as we have been instructed, and it is under control,” Dr Thanit repeated.
“Health officials and the investigation team work hard at their jobs and follow every procedure to protect people from COVID-19,” he said.
Contacted to be asked whether silence from officials about how a person in Phuket became confirmed as infected with COVID-19 would inspire any confidence among tourists, foreign or domestic, to travel to Phuket, TAT Phuket Office Director Nanthasiri Ronnasiri declined to comment.
“Only the Phuket Governor is able to say anything about it,” she said.
Dr Thanit has confirmed that the Thai friend with whom the Indian man had travelled to Chiang Mai, and the American friend with whom the Indian man had dinner in Patong, had both been located and tested negative for the virus.
Both have been ordered to observe a 14-day house quarantine period, he added.
“These two men live alone, without family or a partner, so there is no worry of people at extra high risk of infection from these two men,” Dr Thanit said.
National health officials have already confirmed that not one of 290 people traced and tested in the Indian man’s case had been infected.