“All passengers are screened at the boarding gate as soon as they get off the plane,” an officer at the Health Control Division at Phuket airport told The Phuket News today.
“We are also checking all passengers returning on direct flights to China when they are leaving as well. A special health screening section has been set up beside the Immigration section,” the officer added.
The move follows China suspending all flights out of Wuhan last week, with the virus now claiming 80 lives and China’s National Health Commission today announcing that in addition to 2,744 confirmed infections nationwide, there were nearly 6,000 suspected cases and more than 30,000 people under medical observation. (See story here.)
However, passengers arriving from China after transferring to domestic flights in Bangkok are not being screened, the Health Control Division officer confirmed.
“If they are arriving from Bangkok, they have been checked already,” the officer said.
At a national press conference held at Phuket airport yesterday, Phuket Provincial Health Chief Thanit Sermkaew explained that from Jan 5 to 25 health officers at the airport had examined 4,943 people arriving on 33 direct flights from China, including 107 captains and cabin crew staff.
The health officers had identified 14 people in total suspected of being infected with the virus, but eight of those had already discharged from hospital, Chief Thanit said.
“Six people are still waiting for their blood tests. There are four in Vachira Phuket Hospital, one in Patong Hospital and one in Thalang Hospital. All six people are in stable condition. They can breathe normally, with no need for a respirator,” he said.
“All government and private hospitals in Phuket have been informed to have isolation rooms prepared for people suspicted of being infected. At this stage, there are two Airborne Infection Isolation Room (AIIR) rooms in Vachira Phuket Hospital, one modified room at Thalang Hospital and one modified room at Patong Hospital.
“The PPHO has arranged for 33 officers to conduct examinations at the airport 24 hours a day, with 11 officers on each shift. Officers are standing by at every entrance and exit to the airport, and any persons found with a body temperature higher than 38ºC will have to go through a deep examination and will be rushed to hospital,” Mr Thanit explained.
The PPHO will issue daily reports about the situation “in order to update people about what we are doing and the number of people suspected of being infected, as well as to build confidence among people [in what precautions are being taken],” he added.
At the press conference yesterday Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana explained that officials were keeping track of all tourists arriving from China during their stay on the island.
“Officers are collecting information, such as where the tourists are staying and how they will leave the country. The information is being to prevent Wuhan flu from spreading,” he said.
“We have also informed hotels that if any of their guests become ill with a high temperature, to please contact the PPHO or nearest government hospital so the guest can be examined and be taken care of by doctors,” he added.
“We have implemented intensive measures in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) to take care of the people,” Governor Phakaphong assured, and handed out 36 infrared thermometers to PPHO officers to use for checking people at the airport.
Also at the press conference yesterday was national Department of Disease Control Deputy Chief Dr Preecha Prempree.
“Right now, we have set our prevention and control measures to Level 3,” Dr Preecha said.
“Officers will focus on areas full of Chinese tourists, and every province has to set up a temporary disease control centes.
“Public Relations Department in every province will be responsible for providing updates on prevention progress and the flu situation. Medical officers in government hospitals must have extra supplies of medicines for patients, and there must be a legal expert to suggest what control measures can be implemented at airports and other places,” he added.
“Checking people and following up must be done carefully in order to not worry local people and tourists,” Dr Preecha said.