The Phuket News Novosti Phuket Khao Phuket

Login | Create Account | Search


Phuket Opinion: The problem with Phuket’s COVID containment camps

Phuket Opinion: The problem with Phuket’s COVID containment camps

PHUKET: The move by local officials to create ‘Phuket COVID Care Centers’ should be raising more alarm bells than anyone is willing to report right now. In effect, the “care centers” are nothing more than COVID containment camps, and even then they are just for those who test positive by a rapid antigen test and still are not showing any signs of infection.


By The Phuket News

Sunday 15 August 2021, 09:00AM


An officer looks through the bars to where people who test positive for COVID-19 only by a rapid antigen test but not exhibiting any signs of infection are to be detained. Photo: Phuket City Municipality

An officer looks through the bars to where people who test positive for COVID-19 only by a rapid antigen test but not exhibiting any signs of infection are to be detained. Photo: Phuket City Municipality

The centres have been set up in each of Phuket’s districts: Kathu, Thalang and Muang. The best known example is the conversion of the old prison in Phuket Town to accommodate some 500 people as COVID inmates.

Previously, asymptomatic were asked to observe home quarantine, but now they are going into confinement – despite officials not publicly recognising how many infections have been traced to asymptomtic carriers. Doing so would be a good idea just so the people understand what is going on.

Any doubt as to whether asymptomatic carriers can transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been laid to rest. Not by the World Health Organization (WHO), which refuses to do so as it has taken the position that it is too difficult to report accurately due to the spread by symptom-free carriers varying too greatly among different communities and populations. Instead, the US Centers for Disease Control (US CDC), which has more than enough data points to rely on, in March reported that an estimated 24% of infections happen through asymptomatic patients.

The report noted that 30% of people infected with COVID-19 stay symptom-free, down from the CDC’s previous estimate of 40%. Symptom-free people are less infectious than people with symptoms, but people without symptoms are 75% as infectious as those with symptoms, the CDC report estimated.

In short, there is very much good cause for concern of asymptomatic transmission in Phuket, but the list of problems with the move to detain people only on the basis of an “antigen test kit” result is very long.

First, even to aid their own efforts to contain the spread of infections, local officials are not reporting how many of the latest confirmed infected are Delta variant and not reporting how many of those testing positive have been vaccinated in what are now being called “breakthrough transmissions”. Strike one.

Worse is the reliance to detain people on the basis of testing positive only by an antigen test kit, which officials are calling ATKs in short. In the past month they have stopped referring to such tests as “rapid antigen tests”, as if no longer using the word “rapid” makes the tests more reliable. That does not embolden trust. Strike two.

Phuket officials have confirmed that any of the “care center” detainees are to be tested by RT-PCR method to confirm whether the person is actually infected, but are not reporting how many of the ATK detainees have tested positive, hence they are not revealing to the public how effective the ATKs are in identifying people who are actually infected. Strike three.

In the same vein, the official Phuket COVID situation daily report now includes how many are detained each day on the basis of testing positive by ATK, but does not mark how many people are released after testing negative by RT-PCR method. Strike four.

The daily report marks each day how many people in total remain detained after an ATK test, including the number of new ATK confirmations for that day. This gives the impression that the difference between the total number reported each day might be the number of ATK detainees that have been allowed to go home each day, but in reality the oblique numbers presented fail to confirm how many of those being detained later tested positive by RT-PCR and were transferred to a medical facility, even if asymptomatic, or left at the care centre because they are asymptomatic, or have gone home. We just have no idea. Strike five.

What can be understood by comparing even just the first two reports to include ATK figures is that not one person held for testing positive by ATK was a false positive, and not one detainee started to develop signs of infection. If the ATKs are in any way accurate, they should have identified at least one genuinely infected person. After all, that is what they are being used for. Unless of course not one person being held in confinement with hundreds of other people believed to be infected had an RT-PCR test result back. That beggars belief. Strike six.

Of note, the first daily report by the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) to include any ATK detainee figures featured a zero for how many of the COVID incarcerated had been released to return home. The next day the report did not even include the section. Do Phuket health officials not want to report how many people they are detaining without cause? Strike seven.

The answer to that might be hidden behind one comment this week by PPHO Chief Dr Kusak Kukkiattikoon that “most” of the detainees at the “care centers” are likely to be Myanmar migrant workers.

Phuket’s migrant worker camps have repeatedly been cited by local officials as prime sites for COVID transmissions due to the living conditions at such camps, with no attempt to enforce better living conditions, as if living in poverty were the migrant workers’ fault.

We have seen this type of thinking before. Think America in the 1960s. Residential segregation has long been recognised as a primary cause of not just racism and limited employment opportunities, but also great disparities in health between the segregated community and the greater population as a whole.

As simply as it could be put, D.R. Williams and C. Collins titled their paper published by the US National Institutes of Health in 2001, ‘Racial residential segregation: a fundamental cause of racial disparities in health’.

“Segregation also creates conditions inimical to health in the social and physical environment. The authors conclude that effective efforts to eliminate racial disparities in health must seriously confront segregation and its pervasive consequences,” they wrote.

That was 20 years ago, already decades late for the average American to realise. Failure to recognise this in Thailand in 2021 only lends to the understanding of institutionalised racism in the Kingdom. Migrant workers should be afforded the same level of care and treatment in a pandemic as anyone else, not penned in a prison where any non-infected person is forced to share confined living space with those waiting to be confirmed as infected by a test that now looks like will be days coming.

The US , currently happy to promote its vaccine donations to Thailand, only a handful of years ago was happy to threaten economic sanctions over Thailand’s human trafficking record. Perhaps they might want to start looking at who they are getting into bed with when it comes to civil rights abuses enforced through a perpetually extended emergency decree.

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

CAPTCHA

Taswegian | 16 August 2021 - 10:38:10

While I appreciate the difficulties you are facing in Phuket, spare a thought for Melbourne, Australia. We have now spent more than 200 days in Covid lockdown and are rapidly closing on the world record of 227 days. Our state premier has today announced not just an extension of his 7 day lockdown, but his second curfew! This with only 22 new cases in a population of 6.5 million!

DeKaaskopp | 16 August 2021 - 10:35:48

@Kurt " Reporting to a police station will not be of any use"  But whining on here every day about people still selling alcohol is useful  ? 

Kurt | 16 August 2021 - 08:35:25

@lelecuneo, the point of the alcohol ban for the police is not to execute the ban, but getting 'tea money' by turning a blind eye when alcohol get served in tea cups. Now you know were the expression 'Tea Money' comes from. Reporting to a police station will not be of any use. It just will make that you get investigated/intimidated. 

Christy Sweet | 15 August 2021 - 13:16:33

Great eye-opening Op-Ed. CC'ing to US Embassy, Congressional Reps, Senators and State Dept 

DeKaaskopp | 15 August 2021 - 13:07:01

@leleconjo    Glad to see you still doing your daily rounds of inspections. But why don't you go to your nearest police station and file a complain there instead of whining every day on here ? 

Kurt | 15 August 2021 - 12:05:45

Thai Officialdom 'rules' are most of the time just pencil pusher creations, not reality thinking based. By now Thai people learned to look through most of the nonsense, shrug their shoulders, and continue in their struggle to get food on the table, something government officials don't have to worry about.

Sir Burr | 15 August 2021 - 11:11:10

One thing Covid has in common with flu is that it mutates quickly. Thus, "herd immunity" isn't possible.......just like influenza. That's the science.

lelecuneo | 15 August 2021 - 11:02:24

the rpoblem is that they make up rules and no one care to follow it...like with the alcohol ban that no one is respecting and police not enforcing..... what is the point then? i gladly stop sandbox and shut donw all businesses then for 1 month and clear the island again... corruption, disregard for lawa etc... they deserve what the get all of them

drmokie | 15 August 2021 - 10:47:01

Yup

drmokie | 15 August 2021 - 10:46:21

Right on and accurate. See my 3 posts. Thailand is handling the COVID situation without reading the science.

drmokie | 15 August 2021 - 10:42:09

You can’t contain. Last week a study from a town in Massachusetts, MA, USA, 74 % of people with COVID had the vaccine. People with pre-existing conditions should be protected. Let the rest develop “herd immunity,” which protects way better than the vaccine. Thai gov’t: Follow the science! The USA didn’t because of politics!

Sir Burr | 15 August 2021 - 10:18:39

"Symptom-free people are less infectious than people with symptoms, but people without symptoms are 75% as infectious as those with symptoms, the CDC report estimated".

You sure that's right? The second sentence contradicts the first sentence.

 

Have a news tip-off? Click here

 

Phuket community
Phuket marks 236 new COVID cases, five deaths

If anyone talk to any ambulance office on Phuket, they can confirm the number are very wrong. ...(Read More)


Surachate in Phuket to launch ‘Old Phuket Town Smart Safety Zone’

Well if you want to make a crime free Phuket town, then it’s be no many police again in town or Ph...(Read More)


Access restrictions on Phi Phi Island extended

A missed chance to make Phi Phi island a Covid study project. All people living there, patients and...(Read More)


Phuket study confirms subdermal injections using less vaccine more effective as boost jabs

A blood test on antibody level before 3rd 'booster' vaccination is advisable. It gives insig...(Read More)


Phuket study confirms subdermal injections using less vaccine more effective as boost jabs

A few friends got 2 Sinovac vaccinations. Last week they got 1 AZ 'booster' vaccination. The...(Read More)


Phuket marks 236 new COVID cases, five deaths

For weeks now the infection numbers have been steady around plus or minus 230. This is statistically...(Read More)


Phuket marks 236 new COVID cases, five deaths

Numbers don’t add up so why bother reporting them - the total district numbers broken down are 90 ...(Read More)


Phuket study confirms subdermal injections using less vaccine more effective as boost jabs

Mr Kurt, Phuket, or Thailand, is not the leader of this research. A dutch study into this method of ...(Read More)


Phuket study confirms subdermal injections using less vaccine more effective as boost jabs

I think they are already doing it at Thalang hosp., or the nurse is extraordinarily talented with a ...(Read More)


PPAO moves to set up cheap ATK test centre

Fixed price for all or will there be a 'falang tax'?...(Read More)