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Phuket Opinion: The waiting game

PHUKET: There seems to be a game afoot, and people are starting to smell it. Phuket yesterday passed the magical milestone of 21 days without a new confirmed COVID-19 infection that has yet to be confirmed by experts in Bangkok.

Sunday 24 May 2020, 11:09AM

Children have their temperature checked in Patong. Photo: PPHO

Children have their temperature checked in Patong. Photo: PPHO

All six cases since May 2, when three people in Bang Tao were confirmed as infected, have yet to have their test results by experts in Bangkok announced publicly.

Despite the reporting of an Italian engineer in Cherng Talay being “confirmed” as infected with COVID-19 yesterday, that “confirmation” has yet to be reported directly by the Phuket Provincial Health Office, which serves as the Phuket Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Incident Command Center.

 The last time the PPHO failed to post its own daily report was with reporting of the four “confirmed” cases, including the Patong Police officer, reported by Phuket office of the Public Relations Department on May 10.

PPHO Chief Dr Thanit Sermkaew only on Tuesday (May 19) confirmed that the four reported on May 10 are all awaiting confirmation by tests being carried out by Ramathibodi Hospital and the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute, both in Bangkok.

However, that did seem like overkill, especially after Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha last week announced in person at a meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall that the four had been rechecked and found not infected.

“In the latest cases, where four infections were found, the Department of Medical Sciences repeatedly checked three times to confirm the results clearly as negative, not infected,” Dr Sathit said.

However, Dr Sathit at that same meeting did confirm that Phuket airport would open on May 16. He was wrong on that one.

Dr Thanit on Tuesday also confirmed that even the roommate of the 27-year-old Patong shopping centre staffer who was reported as a “confirmed case” earlier this week was waiting for test results from Bangkok. We would presume that the same is for the actual “confirmed case” as well.

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Meanwhile, as the PPHO has yet to announce any recognition of the Italian engineer being “confirmed” as infected, all people have to go on is the new policy Dr Thanit explained on Tuesday of having cases reconfirmed by experts in the capital.

Of note, Dr Thanit on Tuesday did explain, “There will be no decisions as to whether any areas will be placed under lockdown again until those test results have been confirmed.” Of course not.

So why is the 21 days the magical number? Because only earlier this week did Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn reveal that his ministry plans to discuss with the prime minister permission to allow domestic tourism to start in provinces that reported zero new cases for the past 21 days.

Further, this proposal comes as the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok, which is coordinating the government’s anti-COVID campaign, will next Friday (May 29) “discuss” not only reducing the curfew further, from midnight to 4am, but also allowing more business types to reopen on June 1 under Phase 3 of easing the lockdown restrictions.

The last time the CCSA “discussed” easing of lockdown restrictions introduced to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, less than 48 hours later Phase 2 of easing the restrictions was rolled out, allowing a huge number of businesses, including shopping malls, to open.

If Phuket can make through next week without any new confirmed cases, or any of the outstanding six cases still “waiting for confirmation” by experts in Bangkok being returned as positive, then the island will qualify under Minister Phipat’s proposal.

What really boggles the mind is that even if the tests of the last two most recent cases are returned positive – if we take Deputy Health Minister Mr Sathit at his word that the four on May 10 have been confirmed as negative – what impact should these last two really have? Two confirmed cases in two weeks on an island nearly the size of Singapore is a record any place would be proud of.

This may be all just a coincidence, or it may be the result of tactical reporting and “planned serendipity”. You be the judge of that one. One thing is for sure, we will find out by the end of the coming week.

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harald | 25 May 2020 - 13:37:18

Edward Reumann i think this is so because they are at least a little bit educated and know therefore it is flu and not afraid as many others perhaps hearing the  first time in the livetime about flu. me too was never afraid of flu. i remember times in europe only 2 or 3 years ago as about 20000 people yearly got killed due to the flu and almost nobody was talking about this. 

Edward Reumann | 24 May 2020 - 21:28:06

My compliments to the way the Thai Government has handled this pandemic.   Keeping tight control of flows of traffic, as we
as confining the island and tracing. Sadly, it seems the majority of the facemask violators are foreigners, who think they above rules and regulations.  Local health doesn't seem to matter to them.  As such, maybe they should have their visas revoked.

LALALA | 24 May 2020 - 16:59:58

Yesterday the Prime Minister of Spain has announced that Spain will reopen for foreign tourists in July. They having nearly 300K confirmed cases if I am not mistaken. What is Phuket, what is Thailand waiting for ? 

DeKaaskopp | 24 May 2020 - 14:20:28

@Dicko  I don't see Phuket/Thailand being in a rush to open for tourists. International airport still closed until end of June. Compare that to many countries in Europe who are about to open for tourists again next month,even if there are hundreds of new cases every day in some of those countries. In my opinion Thailand is to slow when it comes to lift restrictions.No tourism before July is ok...

Foot | 24 May 2020 - 14:05:30

This story is remarkable.
Not because of what it says, but, that it is an actual criticism of how the government is doing something.  
Be careful, actual stories, such as these can get you "disappeared."
But, thank you very much.

CaptainJack69 | 24 May 2020 - 12:31:57

"Planned serendipity" LOL.

We don't seem to be able to trust the numbers, so anything can be planned - 'serendipitous' or not. Why is Thailand's mortality among confirmed cases so low compared to other countries? Almost by a factor of 10. Believable?

Dicko | 24 May 2020 - 12:02:09

The real question that needs to be asked/answered is whether the focus to reopen Phuket for tourism outweighs the need for thorough and accurate testing, tracing and reporting. If as we all suspect it's the former then sadly nothing we hear regarding infection rates can be trusted. 

Kurt | 24 May 2020 - 12:01:06

As most Covid-19 infections are imported by people returning from abroad, it would be considered to re-start everything domestically first, and see how that works out.Keep borders closed, no  arrivals from abroad. If that scenario works out well, than open borders for passport holders of countries were Covid-19 is also under control. Opening up step by step.


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