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Separated by COVID: Family holiday for New Year comes undone after son, 17, tests positive in Phuket

Separated by COVID: Family holiday for New Year comes undone after son, 17, tests positive in Phuket

PHUKET: A family holiday to Phuket has left a 17-year-old trapped in a hotel room for five days waiting for confirmation on whether or not he is a ‘Green’ COVID patient and allowed to move to a room next door to his father and brother at a ‘quarantine hotel’, or whether he will be admitted into the local hospital system for treatment.

COVID-19tourism
By Chris Husted

Monday 3 January 2022, 06:48PM


Jens Brandenborg, a former university lecturer in marketing, now a marketing coordinator for a major football club in Denmark, arrived in Phuket with his two sons Rasmus, 17, and Victor, 15, on Dec 20.

All three tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of boarding their TUI flight from Copenhagen as part of the Thailand Pass requirements.

All three tested negative from the swab samples taken after landing in Phuket, the results of which took seven hours for the three to receive while waiting at their room at the Patong Merlin Hotel.

To say the family should be well protected against contracting COVID-19 would be an understatement. All three have been fully vaccinated with Pfizer: Jens with three injections, and Rasmus and Victor both with two injections each.

All three had also recovered from being infected with COVID-19 in December 2020.

THE SCARE

On Day 3 of their stay, Dec 23, Victor started feeling unwell and had a temperature of 38.4ºC.

Worried, Jens, a single father, bought home test kits (ATKs) and they went back to the hotel and performed the tests in their hotel room.

All three tested negative for COVID, but a doctor was called as precaution. “He was there in about 20 minutes. He did a test and confirmed that Victor had Influenza Type A,” Jens explained.

Jens and Rasmus were not experiencing any signs of infection at all.

Soon all was well and the trio were enjoying their holiday, with Victor turning 15 on Dec 26, and all three tested negative for their compulsory tests on Day 5 of their stay.

CONFIRMATION

Yet last Thursday (Dec 30), Rasmus started feeling unwell.

“We went to Central Phuket [shopping mall] and Rasmus was feeling tired. His muscles were sore and his nose would not stop running,” Jens explained.

“I bought a nasal spray to stop his nose running, but that didn’t help,” he added.

Jens bought home test kits and they went back to the hotel again to conduct the tests. They tested themselves twice. This time Rasmus tested positive, but Jens and Victor tested negative ‒ bringing forth the horrible scenario that Jens had asked about repeatedly before bringing his family to Phuket on holiday: what happens when a tourist child tests positive for COVID-19, but the parent tests negative?

Jens called his insurance first to make sure they agreed what to do. He was told to follow the Thai authorities’ instructions.

He contacted the hotel reception. Considering it was already very late in the night, he was told for the three of them to stay in their room overnight and a SHA+ minivan arrived in the morning to take them to Bangkok Hospital Siriroj.

“They tested us at about 11am [last Friday, Dec 31] and we were told we must wait 24 hours for the test results. I kept asking but they said the results would not be ready earlier,” Jens explained.

“So we went back to the hotel and we stayed in separate rooms, with Rasmus alone in his room, which the hotel provided for free,” he said.

With no news on Saturday (Jan 1), Jens called the hospital to find out the test results.

“After about 45 minutes I was put through to a nurse who said that Rasmus had tested positive for COVID, but that they wanted to run the test again to be sure,” Jens said.

Jens and Victor had still both tested negative.

By 5pm the hospital confirmed the test results by email, with the test results attached. Of note, the hospital made no mention of whether Rasmus had contracted Omicron or some other variant of COVID-19.

PROTOCOL IN ACTION

Jens informed the hotel reception and his insurance company of the news. The hotel reception called the hospital . “We were told. ‘Just wait in your rooms, stay in isolation. A nurse from the hospital will call,” Jens said.

Internal - Phuket Live Radio 89.5

Then they waited.

“Nothing happened until yesterday [Jan 2],” Jens explained.

“At 9:30am I received an email from the hospital and a call from the hospital quality coordinator, asking about Rasmus’s height, weight and symptoms. I was asked to fill out the attached to the email. They wanted Rasmus’s test results from Denmark, a copy of his passport, proof of his  vaccination, a photocopy of his immigration stamp to enter the country and a copy of his Thailand Pass permit ‒ and of course proof of insurance,” Jens said.

“I was told it will take 48 hours to look through all the documents,” he added.

The two-day wait was despite his travel insurance company, SOS International insurance – which all travel agents in Denmark use for travel insurance – acting quickly and informing the hospital by email at 9:45am of guaranteed payment of the claim.

The guaranteed payment was two-fold, with written assurance from SOS International’s agent in Thailand, April Assistance, also confirming that the medical bills will be covered, Jens noted.

WAITING

As of this late afternoon (Jan 3), with still no news on what will happen with Rasmus, Jens and Victor moved to the Andakira Hotel, also in Patong.

Jens had not yet been asked, but he knew from his enquiries before travelling to Thailand that all high risk contacts must stay at an ‘Alternative Quarantine’ hotel until health officials approve them to leave.

Rasmus is still at the Patong Merlin, and not allowed to leave his room, which he has been stuck in since last Thursday.

Jens spoke highly of the efforts of the staff at the Patong Merlin. “The manager herself has given Rasmus her number so he can contact her 24/7. She has also given me her number to contact her directly with anything that Rasmus needs,” he said.

As a single father, Jens feels hollow about leaving his son alone while unwell, although he is just one kilometre away. “But he has his computer with him and we can Skype,” he said.

Asked how Rasmus is faring, Jens said, “He is suffering extreme fatigue. He is very sleepy. He has been sleeping about 20 hours a day for the past two-three days.

“In all it is really a mild flu. His muscles are hurting a bit. At home, if he were sick like this, he would have just stayed home from school,” he said.

The plan was for the family to fly home at 10:30am today, so Rasmus could return to school on Tuesday.

“But with so many COVID cases in Denmark right now, schools are closed until Jan 5. They can do online classes in the meantime,” he added.

On top of feeling unwell, Rasmus just wants to go home.

“He is very mature for a 17-year-old. He is tired, and would like to go to the hospital to be tested to know whether or not he is a ‘Green’ patient. Then he could move here [to the Andakira], where the hotel has reserved a room next to ours so we could at least talk to each other on the balconies,” Jens said.

Rasmus, a teenager, is also asking the right questions. “He is questioning why there is so much bureaucracy, asking why does this take so long?” Jens noted.

“The Thai authorities are so strong on that if you test positive you must go to a hospital, but why should you wait five days in your hotel room?” he asked.

“My son has now been left unattended of medical care and is left alone in his hotel room. Why is there no doctor or nurse looking at him? That is what I simply cannot get,” he added.

LOCAL HOSPITALITY

On a bright note, Jens highlighted how a local tour agent had refunded fully prepaid tickets for jet-ski riding and for a snorkelling trip to the similans, despite both tickets being clearly labelled, “No refunds”.

“I had to cancel both. However, the tour agent said she could refund the tickets, but only on the condition that she arrive at the hotel in person to hand over the cash.

“She also asked if she could get my boys anything from the 7-Eleven. They were fine, but she went anyway and bought them some candy. Wonderful,” he said.

Comment on this story

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Kurt | 06 January 2022 - 09:26:06

...They never really intended to do something before Jan 3rd.
They must have been shocked to get the Insurance info , two-fold so quick in a not-Thai way. Hahaha. Sure they didn't expect that. Well, I wish you and sons strenght and hope you can leave Phuket in good health, back to Denmark. Hope a Danish tv program picks up the story and invite you 3 to talk about your experience.

Kurt | 06 January 2022 - 09:17:46

@ Jens, thank you for sharing your family Phuket experience. Guess the silence time 1-2 January (48 paper study hrs) was just due hospital administrative staff holidays. The bureaucratic demand at Jan 2nd for all non relevant documents was just to keep you occupied and them in çreated 'waiting for receiving time delaying modus' till Jan 3rd. They never really intended to do .....

Jens | 05 January 2022 - 22:36:23

Update:
My oldest son is now in the hospital following online teaching feeling only a mild flu. 
My youngest son and I are in isolation. He is also following online teaching and I am working online as well.
If everything goes well we will meet in a few days in the same AQ hospital.

maverick | 04 January 2022 - 19:32:41

Jens@ nice one , don’t listen to the doomsayers on this site, too much sun and Samsong - enjoy your holiday lots of friendly Danes here 

TheHappyTourist | 04 January 2022 - 17:29:51

Hi Jens - great story  - Going to from DK->Phuket in March for a month, so that's good solid info you have provided  - gives us hope for the future :)

Pooliekev | 04 January 2022 - 16:31:41

A remarkable story. Surprised that anyone can bash the Thais involved. Or rather not. Some people always find reasons to bash Thais. 

Jens | 04 January 2022 - 15:34:11

The local tour agent we used was Thongkum Travel - fantastic woman!

We are by the way still waiting for an answer from Bangkok Hospital. According to law my son should go to an approved hospital - thats hard when the hospital does not answer or react.

Jens | 04 January 2022 - 15:11:29

I felt quite safe. We had laptops if we should be quaranteened, plenty of money. The only problem I have in this case is the hospital taking so long to admit my son and same time claiming that I should leave him. Besides no communication or contact from the hospital. If just we get him to the hospital we are confident of what is going to happen. Everything works well exept from Bangkok Hospital.

Jens | 04 January 2022 - 15:07:35

The week before we travelled there were app. 6 out 100.000 infected in Phuket compared to app. 400 out of 100.000 in DK. There were no Omikron in Phuket. All three with vaccines, all three previous infected + measured antibodies. A cousin staning by in DK to fly to Phuket with no notice. Insurance in place. Thailands private hospitals among the best in Far East.

christysweet | 04 January 2022 - 12:14:20

After once witnessing a '5 star' hospital cafe worker drying dishes with the same cloth used to wipe down tables- I would not  trust the skills of any worker, ever.  Both the training and  capacity for implementation are deficient.

Xi_Virus | 04 January 2022 - 11:59:09

Danish authorities came with a strong notice (several weeks ago) and recommended their citizens to NOT travel and take strict measures as they were aware of Omicron and the inefficiencies of current vaccines against it.
Why is this family here?!

Kurt | 04 January 2022 - 10:11:25

Question: At what level are the Covid-19 cleaning skills of SHA++ hotel staff when it comes to cleaning/desinfecting rooms before guests arrive? I know Thai who quited housekeeping jobs in SHA hotels as they found it to dangerous to work there any longer.

Kurt | 04 January 2022 - 09:59:31

The hospital wanted copies of all non relevant documents, while the Thailand Pass copy is enough to proof that all of it is ok, is the typical Thai stupid bureaucracy what keeps Thailand backwarded. Asking as medical institution for a visa is idiot. The family wouldn't be in a Phuket hotel without visa. And 48 hours to 'study' all these copies? What a craziness.

Svcoquette | 04 January 2022 - 09:34:29

It would be nice to know the name of the "local tour agent". They would be number one on my list to contact for tours. Also kudos to Patong Merlin.

JohnC | 04 January 2022 - 09:27:00

No sympathy what-so-ever fpr them. They chose to travel during times of pandemic then they suffer the consequences. If they had stayed home this would not have happened. Som nom na.

skorchio | 04 January 2022 - 09:20:10

This is the result of the system which the authorities have cooked up. It is so freakin complicated just to get into the country, and the BS doesn't stop there. In fact it is just the start, if someone gets covid. And it seems to me that this young lad may have been infected IN PHUKET. The authorities created their own mess with layer and layers of beaurocracy, but without the infrastructure ....

Dave_C | 03 January 2022 - 21:06:46

I post comment but you conveniently lose. Why ??

DeKaaskopp | 03 January 2022 - 20:34:40

Siriroj is indeed very slow and communication is a desaster.The problem is that to many people want or need to get tested.In my opinion covid is rampant on Phuket and anywhere else now.But it is like the flu.Symptons are not severe.No need to panic.

Dave_C | 03 January 2022 - 20:33:42

A very carefully thought out and well documented case which Thai Authorities should take significant notice.
I really doubt if they are up to the task and this will be swept under the carpet. 
I invite others to show such concern as this is the krux of the problems here and is what is holding back the local economy.

Total ineptitude !!!

 

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