The COVID fatality was a 71-year-old man who passed away yesterday morning (May 11), Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) Dr Kusak Kukiattikoon has explained.
The man already suffered from emphysema, and he started to receive hospital treatment for COVID-19 on Apr 13, he added.
The man was moved into intensive care on Apr 17, he explained at the meeting of the Phuket Provincial Communicable Disease Committee at Provincial Hall yesterday, headed by Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew.
The news was repated during the daily broadcast by porvincial officials this morning (May 12).
“He had severe pneumonia with the need for breathing apparatus. He was also on 24-hour peritoneal dialysis to prevent kidney failure. He was under care at the hospital for 29 days in total,” Dr Kusak said.
“I am really sorry for his relatives,” he said.
Dr Kusak expressed concern for a cluster of infections centred on the Phoonpon area in Phuket Town.
“We conducted proactive screening in the area by testing 131 people. A total of 15 people were confirmed infected,” Dr Kusak said.
The cluster arose from a group who were drinking together, he added.
“We have already tested four of the people who were drinking together and they all were confirmed infected,” he said.
“Please avoid gathering for any activities and follow the DMHTT,” Dr Kusal said.
“We have conducted proactive screening in seven locations, testing about 1,500 people in total. Among those tested, six people were confirmed infected, Dr Kusal added.
Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Dr Chalermpong Sukontapol explained that 192 people are now receiving hospital treatment in Phuket for COVID infections.
Of those, 119 people have very light symptoms or no symptoms at all, he said.
Of the remaining 73 people who are receiving treatment for symptoms, 28 have light symptoms, 11 have moderate symptoms and 34 people are suffering pneumonia, Dr Chalermpong said.
“For the patients in our negative-pressure ICU rooms, right now we have only three cases, as one died and another one was transferred to Songklanagarind Hospital in Hat Yai by a relative,” Dr Chalermpong noted.
“This morning, we just received an Australian patient who has pneumonia. He has prostate cancer and septic shock [sic],” he added.
Dr Chalermong confirmed that health officials were still concerned with the number of beds available in ICU wards at government hospitals across the island.
“We are still close to the critical stage. Even though two of our ICU beds are now free, we still have some patients that may develop symptoms of pneumonia later,” he said.
Dr Withita Jaeng-iam, an epidemiologist at Vachira Phuket Hospital continued, “Right now, about 80% of the beds at Vachira Phuket Hospital are occupied, as are 44% of beds at the field hospital set up at PSU [Prince of Songkla University Phuket campus in Kathu], and 50% of beds at Dibuk Hospital. Of the ICU rooms [at government hospitals across the island], about 50% are used.
“In this outbreak, we have found that a higher number of young people are developing pneumonia than before,” Dr Withita said.
Dr Chayanon Pucharoen, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at PSU Phuket’s Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism, noted, “For weeks, we have had a rate of infections lower than the national rate, but after this new cluster, our infection rate is higher than the national rate.
“So, we need to reduce the number of people gathering as much as possible to reduce the risk of infection,” he said.
Dr Chalermpong confirmed that 200,00 doses of the Sinovac vaccine will arrive in Phuket on May 16 to continue the mass-vaccination campaign.
“One million doses of Sinovac vaccine has arrived in Thailand and has been kept in Bangkok since May 6, and 200,000 of those doses are coming to Phuket on May 16,” he said.
“The 200,000 doses will all be given as the first injection for people registered to receive the vaccine, while another 200,000 doses will come at the end of this month to be their second injection,” he added.
“As for the 140,000 doses of AstraZeneca to be given to elders and people who have any of the seven serious medical conditions [recognised by the government], we have not been informed when the vaccine will come,” Dr Chalermpong said.
NO DECISION ON RAPID TESTS
Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew confirmed that no decision has been made yet on whether or not people arriving in Phuket will be required to undergo a rapid antigen test in order to enter the province if they are unable to prove that they are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for the virus within 72 hours of arriving.
“I have already ordered Vice Governor Phichet [Panapong] to discuss with relevant officials, the private sector and medical staff to determine whether we will continue to conduct the rapid tests by charging arrivals, or whether we will cease [enforcing the requirement] and enforce a 14-day quarantine measure instead,” Governor Narong said.
‘Right now, we have not concluded this issue yet,” he confirmed.
JULY 1 IN JEOPARDY
Governor Narong pointed out that the current rate of infections may jeopardise the reopening of Phuket to receiving fully vaccinated tourists without quarantine from July 1.
Provincial officials have set a target of recording only a single-digit number of infections daily by May 15.
“If the number of daily infections continues at 10-15, the [July 1] plan might not materialise. Let us all work together to bring down the number of daily infections to the lowest possible figure,” he said.