PHUKET: The first case of the Delta variant has been confirmed on the tourist island as the province decided to close all schools until July 23 after a surge in infections.
Koosak Kookiattikul, chief of the Phuket public health office, said the province found the first patient infected with the Delta variant of Covid-19, the strain first discovered in India. The strain analysis was confirmed by the medical science centre on Friday.
He said the patient, a foreign businessman who lives in the province, is suspected to have contracted the virus from a visitor from Bangkok. The patient's contacts are being placed under quarantine.
Ten Covid-19 cases were reported on Saturday, the highest in several days, raising concerns. Most patients were Thai nationals who travelled from other provinces.
According to Dr Koosak, three variants of Covid-19 have been reported in the province and most are the Alpha variant, first detected in the UK. Six cases were found to be the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa, and one is the Delta variant.
He said it will take two weeks for the result of a strain analysis of an infected tourist under the Phuket Sandbox tourism scheme to be available.
The tourist, from the United Arab Emirates, arrived on the southern island in a tour group on Tuesday and was found to be infected with Covid-19.
He said 13 tourists in the same group decided to fly back last night while another entered an alternative local quarantine facility.
The school closure order was shared by the Phuket Covid-19 centre on its Facebook. Under the province's order, all schools are to close from July 12-23 and switch to online classes.
The two-week closure follows a meeting of the provincial communicable disease control committee which expressed concerns about a rise in the number of Covid-19 patients aged under 18.
The school closure was proposed out of concern about the emergence of school clusters where people aged below 18 are not vaccinated and cannot fully comply with Covid-19 restrictions.
Students aged below 18 and not vaccinated would need to present student ID cards issued by their schools when entering the province and take Covid-19 tests on arrival. The committee also discussed tightening the screening process for local visitors.