Somyot Wongbunyakul, President of the Phuket Fishermen’s Association, made the request yesterday (Aug 18) for the port to close and mass testing to be conducted.
The port will close tomorrow (Aug 20).
Mr Somyot said that most of the fishermen working out of the port are healthy and more than 90% of the fishermen at the port have completed two vaccination injections.
“However, last week there was [southwest] monsoon weather and the boats were unable to go fishing. About 40 boats stopped fishing temporarily for about seven to eight days because of the weather,” Mr Somyot said.
“This caused the fishermen to disembark from the boats and come ashore, and come in contact with those infected with COVID-19 in the community. They then returned to the boats, leading to infections on the boats,” he explained.
“In the past, there had never been any infections on the boats,” Mr Somyot said.
The outbreak of infections on board fishing vessels led to discussions with commercial fishing boat operators, who suggested that the Phuket Fishing Port close for 14 days so that all people working at the port and those working on the fishing boats could be tested, Mr Somyot continued.
“Any people found infected could then receive treatment and any high risk contacts can observe quarantine on board the boats,” he said.
Mr Somyot noted that eliminating COVID from the commercial fishing fleet will take time.
“Even if the infections disappear, it will take more time to control fully, but all operators are willing to cooperate, both at the Phuket Fishing Port and at the smaller fishing piers,” he said.
“Because more than 90% of the fleet are trawlers, most of the work requires them to be at sea for at least 10 days at a time, and from discussions with operators measures have been put in place so that when the boat enters the harbour, all crews are strictly prohibited from leaving the harbour. This had previously been announced,” he said.
“Along with efforts by officials at the port, an intercepting checkpoint has been set up to prevent any crewmen from leaving the port,” he said.