Phuket has begun mass COVID-19 testing in communities suspected to be the source of the high number of new cases.
Kusak Kukiattikun, the Phuket chief health officer, said nine so-called comprehensive COVID-19 response (CCR) teams were yesterday sent to search for infected people in target communities, in a three-day active case-finding operation using rapid antigen test kits (ATKs).
As a result, the number of new cases is projected to surge during the operation, he said.
Mr Kukiattikun said the number of new cases of COVID-19 on the resort island has surged to well over 200 per day.
This has caused alarm bells to ring among officials who fear a worsening of the COVID-19 outbreak situation.
“Since July, the number of new infections has continued to rise due to the delta variant,” Mr Kukiattikun said.
“Phuket is a tourist destination. We can’t simply stop the people from visiting.
“Among them were migrant workers, so a mass screening test programme is needed before more patients fill up hospital beds and seriously affect the Phuket Sandbox.”
Since the launch of the tourism reopening pilot programme in Phuket on 1st July, more than 30,000 foreign tourists have visited the province.
Only 96 tested positive for COVID-19 while they were there, said Yongyot Thammawut, deputy permanent secretary for public health.
Yesterday, Phuket recorded 242 new COVID-19 infections, one of whom was a tourist under the Phuket Sandbox.
The mass COVID-19 testing programme targets about 25,000 people, he said.
A centre has also been set up at the province’s town hall to provide tests to confirm COVID-19 cases detected in self-testing using ATK, he said.
He said he had been advised outbreak containment is expected to be achieved in two weeks.
“COVID-19 vaccination, particularly in the migrant worker population, is also being accelerated as part of the effort to contain the outbreak and restore confidence in the safety of Thailand’s tourism reopening,” he said.