Phuket launches rapid antigen test drive

Phuket launches rapid antigen test drive

Phuket has announced it will launch rapid Covid-19 antigen testing from Friday until May 15 to speed up the detection of cases and control the spread of the virus.

Piyapong Choowong, deputy Phuket governor, said the provincial disease control committee's meeting approved the plan on Thursday to carry out the tests on visitors from Krabi, Ranong, Trang and Phatthalung.

He said the governor has also ordered officials to inspect three districts, gathering information about those who are not receiving treatment among those infected, finding at-risk groups in each tambon and carrying out active case finding in the areas.

After May 15, if daily new cases carry on at more than 20, stricter health measures will be imposed to boost safety. Two hundred vaccine doses delivered to the province this month will also be administered in the hope of later achieving the so-called "Phuket Sandbox", a scheme to bring back tourists to the resort island.

He said visitors entering the province through checkpoints after May 15 will be given a Covid-19 test funded by the National Health Security Office. However, if daily new cases do not decline, the communicable disease committee may change its policy.

Koosak Kookiattikul, chief of Phuket's public health office, said accumulated Covid-19 infections in the new wave from April 3 to May 5 rose to 493, with 229 under treatment in hospitals and 269 recuperated. Five other people came from other provinces.

He said half of the 520 patient beds in total were occupied and 220 remain for patients with mild symptoms. Some 60% of Intensive Care Unit beds are being used.

Some 80 of 170 beds in a field hospital at Prince of Songkla University are serving patients, Dr Koosak said, adding the province has secured 265 beds at another field hospital at Phuket Rajabhat University.

Dr Chalermpong Sukhonthapol, director of Vachira Phuket Hospital, said he looked forward to confirmation by the Public Health Ministry that the province will get more vaccines this month.

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