The explanation by PPHO Chief Thanit Sermkaew to The Phuket News today (Feb 17) follows weeks of silence on how many people in Phuket have been put under observation on suspicion that they may be infected – or even what happened to the 10 people who were last reported on Jan 31 as under observation at hospitals in Phuket on suspected of being infected with virus.
Chief Thani today even declined to confirm which passengers are being screened at Phuket International Airport for elevated body temperature.
“I am not allowed to give any information to the press about coronavirus updates at all. There is only the public information through the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department [PR Phuket], which receives orders from Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana only,” Chief Thanit said.
“This is by order of the Ministry of Health in Bangkok to not give out any information,” Chief Thanit added.
Over the past three weeks, the daily virus-situation update briefings in Phuket have degenerated into nothing more than public relations announcements by officials explaining what basic actions action are being taken in terms of public-awareness campaigns and cleaning exercises.
The report last Friday (Feb 14) of passengers disembarking the Seabourne Ovation cruise liner which had arrived in Phuket was the first since Jan 31 to explain exactly who was being tested by whom.
At that event, Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana confirmed that there were still no confirmed cases of people infected with the coronavirus in Phuket. (See story here.)
The last report by officials recognising any persons as under observation on suspicion of being infected came on Jan 31, when Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Dr Chalermpong announced that six more tourists in Phuket were under observation.
However, Dr Chalermpong stressed, “They are only suspected of being infected, and are under observation only.”
The six new cases brought to 29 the total number of people in Phuket held for observation since officials started scanning new arrivals for elevated body temperatures on Jan 5.
Of those, 19 had been already discharged from hospitals, Dr Chalermpong said on Jan 31, adding that the remaining 10 are in hospital care: eight at Vachira Phuket Hospital, one at Patong Hospital and one at Thalang Hospital. (See story here.)
Meanwhile, while the daily update briefings have been held between 9am and 11am each day, the reports are not being made available on the PR Phuket official Facebook page until late afternoon to early evening. (See Facebook page here.)
The Health Control Division at Phuket airport today also declined to publicly clarify which passengers arriving or departing Phuket were being screened for elevated body temperatures.
PR Phuket reports have repeatedly claimed that all passengers inbound and outbound are being screened, with passengers arriving directly from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao not even allowed inside the terminal until they have been screened for fever. (See story here.)
However, The Phuket News has received multiple first hand reports of passengers arriving from a variety of locations confirming that they were not screened at all on landing at Phuket airport.
Dr Sirilak Thaichareon, Director of the regional Disease Prevention and Control office has yet to reply to requests from The Phuket News for clarification of Phuket’s current situation regarding the virus outbreak.
Vague national updates are provided through Bangkok officials each day, with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports sharing posts by the Ministry of Public Health’s Department of Disease Control (DDC).
As of yesterday (Feb 16), the DDC reported that Thailand had identified 35 confirmed cases of people infected with the coronavirus. Of those, 15 had recovered and been discharged from hospital care, while the remaining 20 were still receiving treatment in hospital
Also as of yesterday, the DDC reported that Thailand had 837 cases of people suspected of being infected, with 55 cases detected by airport screenings – though it has not been explained exactly at which airports these people were identified as infected.
The remaining 782 cases were people who had presented themselves at hospitals and sought medical service on their own at hospital, the DDC noted.
Of the 821 suspected infections, 703 have been cleared and the patients allowed to return home, whether home be here in Thailand or abroad, while the remaining 134 remain under hospital observation, the DDC reported.
The daily reports do not indicate where or when the suspected cases were identified.
The MoTS urges people to check the DDC latest “viral pneumonia” report webpage for people to get the latest updates. (See webpage here.)