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Phuket sounds alarm over infected tourists

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Phuket authorities are asking the government to take action against infected tourists arriving on the island in large numbers

Fake and false-negative test results for Covid-19 have caused a sharp rise in infections among arriving foreign tourists.

Phuket authorities are asking the Covid-19 Situation Centre to step up measures to test foreign tourists for the coronavirus disease after the number of tourists arriving with positive test results began to increase, the Bangkok Post reported.

This is believed to be mainly due to fake test results before departure or false-negative test results that were only detected after travellers arrived in Phuket.

The call for enhanced screening measures for Covid-19 was made by Phuket’s Vice Governor Pithet Panapong, during a teleconference between coronavirus organisations in Phuket and the Situation Centre in Bangkok yesterday.

The deputy governor said the rising number of infections among incoming foreign tourists was likely to increase the burden on the province to organise isolation of visitors in hospitals and specially prepared hotels.

The number of infected foreigners is expected to rise given the large number of tourists applying to enter Phuket without undergoing quarantine under the “Test&Go” scheme, which resumed operation on Tuesday.

“The surge in positive tests among tourists after arrival is believed to be due to false-negative PCR tests for Covid-19,” Pichet said.

Also, according to the vice-governor, some tourists present the results of a rapid antigen test before flying to Thailand instead of PCR test results.

“It is beyond Phuket’s authority to solve such problems and the help of the Situation Centre is needed here,” said Piechet.

Phuket is asking the Civil Aviation Authority to warn airlines bringing foreign tourists to Thailand to strictly check the PCR test results of passengers before departure, the deputy governor said.

As for Covid-19 testing upon arrival, Phuket is making every effort to ensure that the testing area at the airport is not overcrowded, especially when many passengers arrive simultaneously due to flight delays, Pichet said.

The airport currently handles about three thousand PCR tests a day, but the capacity could be increased to 10,000 a day if necessary, the deputy governor said.

After PCR tests have been carried out on incoming foreigners, the rate of infected tourists is around 3% and this is alarming, said Wachira Phuket Hospital director Dr Wirasak Lortongkham. But despite this, the situation of Covid-19 among foreign tourists arriving in Phuket is currently still under control, he added.

However, if the infection rate among arrivals exceeds 5%, the isolation system of hospitals and hotels in the province will be overwhelmed, as all hotels hosting foreign tourists are required to reserve about 5% of their rooms for this purpose, the doctor explained.

Despite a promise to find measures to combat the rising incidence of Covid-19 among incoming tourists, the Situation Centre warned Phuket on Thursday of an even greater strain on Phuket as up to 40 per cent of the 20,000 foreign tourists registered to enter Thailand under the “Test&Go” scheme on Monday intend to arrive on the island.

A total of 7,742 foreign tourists arrived in Thailand on Monday and Tuesday, 344 of whom tested positive for coronavirus on arrival.

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