Authorities in Phuket are stepping up measures to help prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 on the resort island following reports of Thai returnees bypassing border checkpoints to re-enter the country without going into quarantine.
Deputy Governor Pichet Panapong was speaking after chairing a meeting of the provincial committee on communicable diseases and said the case of three Thai women who returned from Myanmar through an illegal border crossing without reporting to authorities and were found to be infected with the virus has sparked concerns.
He said local officials will be keeping an eye on migrant workers, especially those from Myanmar, and urged Myanmar workers to comply with disease control measures if they want to return to work in the province.
He said the meeting has also discussed the possibility of arranging a quarantine facility for illegal migrant workers in the province.
There are 59,000 registered migrant workers in the province and 80% of them are Myanmar nationals, he said.
“People can also act as eyes and ears for the authorities. If they find something suspicious in their communities, they should alert immigration police or local police,” he said.
According to Mr Panapong, among the issues discussed by the communicable disease control committee was a request by the Thai Yachting Business Association to manage cruise ships during the COVID-19 pandemic and a proposal to extend the operating hours of shopping complexes during New Year festivities.
According to Phuket provincial authorities, as of 29th November, a total of 726 people checked in for local quarantine, 20 in alternative local quarantine facilities and four in alternative yacht quarantine.
Of this number, only one person, a Dutchman who arrived with his wife on 1st November under the Special Tourist Visa scheme, tested positive for the virus. The infection was reported on 5th November and the man was sent for treatment at an affiliated hospital.
The province now has 21 alternative quarantine facilities with 2,554 rooms but the number of foreign visitors is not picking up. A total of 11 people asked to enter the province from 4th-12th December and, so far, only one request has been filed for a visit in January.
According to authorities, six foreign-flagged boats have entered Phuket since its partial reopening and all onboard are quarantined on their vessels 6km from shore.