The explanation was given during a press conference led by Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew broadcast live yesterday (Jan 6).
Phuket Provincial health Office (PPHO) Chief Dr Thanit Sermkaew pointed out that Phuket currently has zero confirmed cases of people infected with COVID-19, after a father and his two sons were discharged from hospital earlier this week.
A total of 196 people believed to have had high-risk exposure to the three patients were checked, with none found to be infected, he added.
“This is good news for Phuket. The three have already recovered and left the hospital. They have returned home already and no longer have any symptoms, and no additional cases were found,” he said.
“In other provinces throughout the country, there are still many people infected, both Myanmar and Thai people. [These infections] which may be associated with gambling houses and our Myanmar brothers and sisters in the country,” Dr Thanit said.
“The Ministry of Public Health is now accelerating proactive checks to search for more infected people in the country and [the current campaign] is expected to be completed by no later than the end of January,” he added.
“Previously, Phuket was the highest-ranking province in terms of having the most infections. We are using that experience and coordinating with the relevant departments to cooperate intensely this time,” Dr Thanit said.
Governor Narong pointed out that as Phuket was doing so well at preventing any outbreak, many people had asked why officials had ordered all schools on the island to close.
Phuket Vice Governor Phichet Panaphong explained, “From yesterday’s meeting [Jan 5], it was revealed that during the new year, parents and students from various schools in Phuket went on trips to celebrate the new year. Many of these might have traveled to high-risk areas in the 28 provinces now under tight controls and returned to Phuket, and the children returning to attend school. We cannot know whether any of these people returned infected.
“After hearing complaints from parents and owners of the schools on this matter, we needed to announce the school closure to prevent the occurrence of problems. Parents have agreed that if there are no new infections within the 14 days, the schools can re-open,” he said.
Vice Governor Pichet noted that some parents had objected to the schools refusing to allow their children to go to school, but he also noted, “Concerns have also now been raised that parents will take their children on another trip [out of the province] during the 14 days. Therefore we ask everyone right now to stay at home. It is the best way.”
Fellow Vice Governor Vikrom Jakthee added, “From assessing the situation, Phuket is clear of infections, so there is no need to lock down and no provincial entrances are closed, but there are intense checks at all three entrances and exits of Phuket.”
BUSINESS AS USUAL
V/Gov Vikrom also explained, “Establishments similar to service locations are not closed. We command that all places in Phuket to follow the control order.
“Our preliminary checks have found many places that violate the control measures, and we have already caught three places, which the court fined two venues B40,000 each and one venue B30,000. It has also been emphasised that officers are checking every night.
“The question is, why are service establishments not closed? The answer is that if they were ordered to close, the number of unemployed would increase by thousands. This would affect the province’s overall economy worse.”
Governor Narong added, “If establishments were closed, it would affect the economy. Everyone would lose their jobs. So for now any closures will be on a case-by-case basis, and only ordered for those who do not follow the provincial regulations.”
Governor Narong also raised the issue of flights being cancelled over the new year, amid reports saying that a person in Phuket had been found infected.
Phuket International Airport General Manager Thanee Chuangchoo confirmed yesterday that the number of flights cancelled was due to a lack of passengers wanting to come to Phuket.
Yet, Phuket health chief Dr Thanit explained, “During the new year there was news that someone in Phuket was infected and that tourists had cancelled the flights they had booked, leading to half the flights to Phuket being cancelled.
“A person with a temperature over 38℃ degrees was identified, but no infection was detected,” Dr Thanit said.
“It was a mistake while checking at Thalang Hospital,” he added.
Governor Narong also highlighted that Phuket does not have the resources to conduct full-scale widespread testing for COVID-19, while V/Gov Vikrom explained that provincial officers were testing only sample candidates from potential risk groups.
“It would be costly if all potential candidates were swab tested, and there probably won’t be enough [budget to do so],” V/Gov Vikrom said.
Hence officers were to ensure that proactive checks continue with random sample testing to be done, he added.