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Phuket Opinion: Enough rope

PHUKET: If anyone was still looking for evidence that the COVID infection figures provided by some officials in Phuket were not adding up, this past week – not once, but twice – they have had that evidence served to them on a plate.

Sunday 26 September 2021, 09:00AM

Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew (right) has the latest statistics explained to him at the Aunjai Clinic in Phuket Town on Friday (Sept 24). Photo: Radio Thailand Phuket

Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew (right) has the latest statistics explained to him at the Aunjai Clinic in Phuket Town on Friday (Sept 24). Photo: Radio Thailand Phuket

Plenty of suspicions about the veracity of the figures published each day in the daily COVID situation report for Phuket have been abound for a long time, yet this past week those suspicions were confirmed by none other than the official reports themselves.

The daily COVID situation report for last Sunday marked four deaths attributed to COVID-19. However, as marked by the notice announcing the details of those four deaths, three of the four cases were assigned a “Case Number” that was issued only in the preceding 24 hours – the same 24-hour period that the death was recognised.

On that information alone, officials may claim that they had no idea that these three were infected with COVID-19 until their bodies were brought to a hospital. But as the case of the 24-year-old from Phuket Prison dying after contracting COVID-19 highlights, at the time of his death he was already under care at Thalang Hospital after being diagnosed as COVID positive during testing at the prison on Sept 4 – some two weeks earlier.

The only other two explanations Phuket officials could offer are: 1) the victims died instantly from COVID-19, not exactly a plausible explanation considering the worldwide scientific data available; or 2) they could admit that the case numbers and number of people “confirmed” as infected in the daily report each day include cases that health officials already knew about long before and for whatever reason decided to not add them in the daily total at the time.

Of note, the death of the 24-year-old inmate was one of the three deaths reported by officials last Sunday. Oddly, and make of this what you will, the case numbers for the deaths for the next day, Monday, were dropped from the notice posted the next day. By coincidence, publicly posting the ‘death details notice’ on Monday, when the case numbers were not included, took officials an extra 12 hours.


Yet, the case numbers returned to the death details notice posted on Tuesday, when normal service resumed – except for one of the five deaths recognised in a report yesterday.

That was not the only evidence gifted to reality-based sceptics this week. The progress report by health officials of the nine Phuket Comprehensive COVID-19 Response teams (Phuket CCR) deployed to test people in communities across the island also exposed further “oddities” in the daily report.

The teams tested 1,581 people on Tuesday (Sept 21) by using antigen test kits (ATKs), with 97 returning positive results. The teams tested a further 2,593 people on Wednesday (Sept 22), with 115 returning positive results.

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However, the daily report for Tuesday (Sept 21) marked only 93 cases confirmed positive by ATK, a large spike compared with the usual numbers, indicating that the CCR teams efforts had been included, but only a further 35 cases were confirmed as ATK positive in the daily situation report on Wednesday (Sept 22).

Even allowing 24 hours for the CCR team reports to come in, the daily reports over the three days marked 214 cases confirmed by ATKs, compared with the 212 confirmed by the CCR teams themselves.

That allows for only two more people to be confirmed positive by ATK over three entire days. The only way that is possible is that if the checkpoint onto the island and every other official are no longer testing for COVID while the CCR teams are conducting their tests. It also discounts any people testing positive by ATK at home and contacting the much-trumpeted Aunjai Clinic (“Peace of Mind Clinic”) set up at the conference hall of the still-incomplete “new” Provincial Hall on the south side of Phuket Town, at a cost of at least B1.2 million.

The numbers just aren’t adding up, and yet it is not surprising anyone. All this harks back to “Patient 26” last year, for those Phuket readers who remember.

Patient 26 was a Chinese national confirmed as infected with COVID-19 in Phuket in February last year, at a time when no officials would publicly confirm that the virus was on the island.

Deputy Director-General of the national Department of Disease Control (DDC) Dr Kajohnsak Kaewjarus flew to Phuket from Bangkok expressly to face the press, but only refused to confirm or deny whether the Chinese tourist had been confirmed as infected with COVID.

Dr Kajohnsak claimed he had inspected and checked the report issued by the DDC marking the COVID infection, but dismissed it as an internal report that was not for public release.

In short, what health officials know that may directly affect public health – and an individual’s safety – is for them to decide. They will tell us what we are worthy of knowing.

With that understanding of public policy of hiding vital information about the pandemic in Thailand, and specifically in Phuket, officials might as well learn one more thing: If you’re going to… let’s not say lie, let’s just say “manage”… statistics being reported, you have to “manage” all of them. Otherwise it just looks stupid.

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Timothy | 29 September 2021 - 08:40:29

They do like to massage numbers. Like only counting road accident deaths of the victims who die at the scene of the accident, and not in hospital later. 

Christy Sweet | 28 September 2021 - 19:03:15

Agree, TrumPutin was/ is the biggest liar ever but  not so great at it-  only fooled 63 million voters which is less than 20% of the US population. Yes 1 out of 5 people will believe anything. Still doesn't change my view of Lieland.

skorchio | 28 September 2021 - 12:00:47

I lost faith when they stopped reporting the number of drownings. The Gazette used to report it weekly when things were bad (high numbers drowning), and pressurised authorities to do more to warn monsoon visitors about the dangers of the sea during that season. Phuket's response - the statistics were no longer available.

JohnC | 27 September 2021 - 09:53:17

@christysweet.  [never seen people so willing to lie so easily and about everything. Quite good at it, too. ] What about the clown who was your last POTUS? The biggest liar of all time, and he was very good at doing it. Fooled 75m gullible Americans.

mgb | 27 September 2021 - 08:43:27

NUMBERS are BS. A person discovered with Covid through a hospital  is counted.  NO follow up done of the immediate family members.  Self test Antigen is not counted. The number self isolating after an Antigen Test positive is High, a family member following the the same protocol as the government quarantine hotels is taking care, probable better.

Christy Sweet | 26 September 2021 - 18:32:23

Great reporting , thank you for it. Singapore has a saying "Don't Thai to me.." about  liars. Just call it Lieland, never seen people so willing to lie so easily and about everything. Quite good at it, too. 

Kurt | 26 September 2021 - 15:37:59

@Xi-Virus, here is another one: ..."The truth has always longer legs than the lie"...  :-)  However, Officialdom counts on the usual 'short of memory' condition of Thai, which actually starts with Officials themselves. That is why it is so easy to catch them on inconsistencies of their sayings.

CaptainJack69 | 26 September 2021 - 13:16:34

Britain specifically cited the unreliability of Thailand's COVID figures as one of the main reasons for it's demoting us to their red-list'. That and the woeful lack of vaccination. You see any 'sandbox' tourists coming from Britain now? And all this talk of 'reopening' tourism. It's not just up to you guys. If foreign governments don't trust you then their peop...

maverick | 26 September 2021 - 12:07:38

WTFB @ spot on once they realized that they had been rumbled after the daily map totals did not add up to the number reported they decided to stop releasing district totals - very unhelpful and typical lack of transparency on part of this government - shameful 

Xi_Virus | 26 September 2021 - 12:05:59

As Buddha said:

Xi_Virus | 26 September 2021 - 12:04:37

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

wtfb | 26 September 2021 - 11:13:57

I assume that it is the inability to manage the numbers that has led to the failure to publish updated maps of where the infections are on the island. Even if the numbers didn't add up the updated map would be a valuable tool to anyone wishing to avoid high risk areas and help reduce the spread of infections. 

Malc-thai | 26 September 2021 - 09:44:10

And they wonder why Thailand is still on many countries red lists !


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