Details of the case were announced through a press conference broadcast live through Facebook today (Nov 11), a public relations exercise Phuket officials have not used for months.
Leading the press conference was Somsuk Sumtarnprateep, Deputy Chief of the Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO).
After assuring that Phuket health officials were well prepared to respond to any local infections surfacing on the island, Mr Somsuk explained that the Dutchman and his family members arrived on a private jet, landing at Phuket International Airport.
Mr Somsuk later told The Phuket News that he could not confirm where the Dutch family had arrived from.
“I am not sure if they visited the airport in Bangkok before they came to Phuket International Airport. They are long-term tourists who signed up under the Special Tourist Visa (STV) in Phuket province,” he said.
“The Dutchman is the first case found at an Alternative Local Quarantine (ALQ) hotel [in Phuket], but this foreigner was infected outside our country, not in Phuket province. His wife and child were detained as they are [in] a high risk group.
“We checked them on the third and fifth days after they arrived. It [the infection] was found at the ALQ hotel on Nov 5. This Dutchman was separated and placed under care at the hospital that the hotel has partnered with. His wife and child are still in quarantine and we are waiting for their test results,” he said.
Mr Somsuk declined to reveal which ALQ hotel where the Dutchman was confirmed as infected and where his family are still staying.
“Further, there were four other crews [sic] on the private jet who had been in close contact with the Dutchman. They were checked and had no symptoms. They stayed in quarantine for three days at the ALQ hotel, then they left our country by scheduled flight,” Mr Somsak said.
“After that, we checked and confirmed that there is no additional risk to people from the Dutchman,” Mr Somsak assured.
“COVID-19 [in Phuket] is under control, we can handle it. If a second outbreak happens, we are ready with all measures, because we need to prevent a second outbreak. Lastly, as reported from the investigation team, there are no additional infections or risk in Phuket from the Dutchman,” he said.
“Please be confident that our disease control [measures] work very well and have everything under control. Phuket province is surely safe,” Mr Somsak said.
During the live broadcast, Mr Somsak explained that the ‘Phuket Model’ now involved seven measures to counter any spread of COVID-19.
“The last case of a COVID-19 infection in Phuket was almost six months ago, so we have not had a new case of infection for half a year,” Mr Somsak said.
“We have high safety, but we have never neglected the protection and prevention of a second wave of infections, as we know that if an outbreak happens again, all people will be badly affected. The businesses that have not been recovered would suffer even worse,” he admitted.
Mr Somsak detailed the seven measures to prevent a second outbreak as follows:
1. Virus protection from a foreign country. “We have officers to test foreigners at Phuket International Airport, at the piers and even at the Phuket Gate [sic], presumably the Phuket Check point regulating all road traffic onto the island]. If we found infected people in Phuket, we may have to lock down,” Mr Somsak also admitted.
2. Quarantine. “Foreign tourists arriving on flights must quarantine in the [ALQ] hotel that they choose. Those coming by yacht have to quarantine onboard, and those who work on ships have to quarantine at the state quarantine venues,” Mr Somsak said.
3. Testing and tracking. “We have an ARI clinic at Vachira Phuket Hospital where those who have problems with breathing are tested. We test people all the time, even though the situation has improved,” he said.
4. Tracing and Tracking. “For example, the case of the Indian man who was infected in Krabi and travelled to Phuket, our officers went to every place that he visited and searched for people who had close contact with him. We already ordered them to quarantine themselves,” Mr Somsak pointed out.
5. Treatment. “We have officers, special rooms, medicines and even a psychologist for people. Our staff are ready all the time,” Mr Somsak explained.
6. Law enforcement. “We have management teams in every local administration,” Mr Somsak noted.
7. Co-operation from everyone. “We work together not only with officials, but also local people. Private companies have taken a great part in helping officials’ work, such as purchasing and hiring,” Mr Sonsak said.
“You don’t have to panic. We can do it at this stage; however, you still have to follow the new normal measures,” Mr Somsak urged.
“If it [a second outbreak] happens in Phuket province, it may eventually require a lockdown,” Mr Somsak last explained to The Phuket News.
“We will do it from light level [low number of infections] to heavy levels [high number of infections). For example, if a light-level outbreak happened in a housing estate, that village would be locked down. That way, they won’t let others get in trouble in this situation,” Mr Somsak said.
Mr Somsak said he was unable to specify the number of infections that would lead to a lockdown.
“It depends on the situation in real time and other factors. We will consider the risk. Then the area will be shut down only in some areas, but not the whole subdistrict, district or province,” he said.
Any lockdowns on the island would involve a host of officials, starting with the Phuket Provincial Disease Control Committee, chaired by the Phuket Governor, Mr Somsak explained.
Other officials to be involved included Department of Disease Control officers, who would be the team co-ordinating many relevant officials, he said.
Mr Somsak urged people on the island to continue to uphold the ‘New Normal’ requirements.
“You have to wear face masks, maintain social distance between one another, wash your hands often and avoid crowded areas as much as possible, and use the Thai Chana app” he said.
“We need to prevent a second outbreak, so I want people to still keep following the New Normal. Do not relax or ignore the New Normal health regulations.
“I want local people to trust us and not to worry. You have to know our working process,” Mr Somsak said.
“If you post anything incorrect on social media, it will dangerously affect Phuket,” he warned.
“If you have any questions, PPHO officers are ready to give you answers all the time,” he said.
During the live broadcast, Thalerngsak Nuchprahan of the Phuket Provincial Office also pointed out that the provincial government was helping to support local businesses suffering amid the COVID crisis.
“If we found any infection in Phuket, we would take action immediately and strictly follow the Ministry of Public Health’s measures. We will create a balance between economic necessity and health support,” he said.
“For economic support, we have to stimulate tourism. We have four measures to work on. These projects have been named Phuket Travel Phuket, Thai Travel Phuket, Foreigners Travel Phuket, and Work and Travel to Phuket,” Mr Thalerngsak explained.
“On Nov 14-16, the Phuket Tourist Association will bring 12 foreign ambassadors on a trip to Phuket in order to promote Phuket tourism,” he added.