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Ferry death toll rises to nine

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Ferry death toll rises to nine | Thaiger

KOH YAO: Nine people drowned when the overloaded passenger ferry Rungroj capsized and sank in heavy seas off Naka Island Saturday afternoon. One person is still missing.

Of the nine dead, five were children and three others were women.

The 13-meter vessel had left Bang Rong pier in Thalang District and was bound for Koh Yao Noi at about 3 pm when it was pummeled by waves whipped up in Saturday afternoon’s sudden rains and heavy winds.

An official at Koh Yao Hospital told the Gazette that the confirmed death toll reached nine when rescue workers this morning pulled the body of 14-year-old schoolgirl Tiparat Pinyo from the sea.

Phuket Police helicopters and vessels from the Marine Police, Customs Department and Navy as well as local fishing boats, which were first on the scene, all took part in the rescue effort.

Of the survivors, 56 of the 63 who received treatment at Koh Yao Hospital have already been released. Eleven people with serious injuries were transferred to Wachira Phuket Hospital.

A Marine Police unit salvaged the ferry yesterday. Although licensed to carry just 22 people, it was overloaded with about 70 passengers, along with 10 motorcycles and other cargo.

Koh Yao Police Station Superintendent Pol Col Weerasin Khwanseng said yesterday that ferry captain and owner Dol Rerngsumthorn had contacted the police to arrange his surrender and will face charges of reckless conduct leading to death and injury

Phuket Marine Police Inspector Pol Maj Prasert Srikunnarat told the Gazette that while some passengers were wearing life jackets, others were not.

One of the Rungroj survivors, 34-year-old Koh Yao resident Chanida Romin, told the Gazette from her hospital bed at Wachira Phuket Hospital, “It happened at around 3 pm. There were strong winds and heavy rain. I had come over to Phuket and was on my way back home.

“The captain told us not to panic. He also warned us not to all go to the same side of the boat, otherwise it could capsize. Then a woman said that we had to abandon ship, because the boat was filling up with water, but nobody believed her.

“However, after that, the captain himself was the first person to jump into the water. The crew told us to jump though the windows into the sea. By then the water was up to our knees. It was complete chaos as everybody struggled for life jackets [because there were not enough].

“Everyone managed to get off, but not everybody had a life jacket. I had one, and found myself in the water with two other people. One of them also had a life jacket but the other didn’t. The two of us could only watch as she was pulled under by a large wave. She drowned right in front of our eyes.

“We floated out there for about an hour, and I prayed to God the entire time to rescue us. Eventually we were rescued by a long-tail boat. Last night, I was up all night vomiting up sea water.

“I hope all the relevant government agencies will take action to prevent something like this from ever happening again,” she added.

The Rungroj capsizing was not the only emergency situation on Saturday afternoon.

Col Weerasin told the Gazette that the Phuket Marine Police also received a distress call from Koh Pai.

“That night, while we were working hard to search for survivors, we received a report that 70 tourists were stranded on Koh Pai. Their ferry was unable to return them to Phuket because of the storm.

“We sent a Marine Police boat to the island and were able to get them all back to Phuket safely,” he said, adding that the stranded tourists included both Thais and foreigners.

 

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Thailand

Americans in Thailand urge US to provide Covid-19 vaccines to citizens overseas

Tanutam Thawan

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Stock photo by Mufid Majnun for Unsplash

Thai officials say expats living in Thailand will be included in the government’s mass Covid-19 vaccination plan, but exactly when that will be is still up in the air. With foreign embassies in Thailand clearly stating that they will not assist with providing citizens living overseas with vaccines, expats are relying on the Thai government.

A number of Americans are now urging the US government to provide Covid-19 vaccines to citizens living in Thailand. And with the recent outbreak linked to the more contagious variant of the virus, getting a vaccine in Thailand has become more pressing.

A “Covid-19 Vaccine Task Force” of Democrats Abroad Thailand members, as well as those from American organisations based in Thailand, is calling on the US government to deliver vaccines to citizens living in Thailand, chairperson of Democrats Abroad Thailand and a United Nations consultant, Paul Risley, told VOA.

“Americans who live abroad need to be vaccinated for the same reasons that Americans who live in the United States need to be vaccinated… Because it’s the only way to stop Covid-19.”

If an American were to travel back to the US for a vaccine, they would still need to stay in a hotel or certified facility for a 14-day quarantine at their own expense when re-entering Thailand. Along with getting together the required paperwork, they would need to go through numerous Covid-19 tests including before the flight, upon arrival and before being released from quarantine. The flights to and from the US can end up being more than 20 hours per trip and add up to thousands of dollars in travel costs.

For the vast majority of Americans in Thailand, flying back to the US is the only way to get vaccinated at the moment. The US Embassy in Bangkok says vaccines will not be provided for US citizens living overseas.

The Department of State does not provide direct medical care, including vaccinations, to private U.S. citizens abroad. We are committed to providing all possible consular assistance to U.S. citizens in need overseas, including by providing information on local medical resources when appropriate. Please follow host country developments and guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination.

At a recent Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration meeting, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “all people who reside in Thailand, regardless of their nationality, are eligible to receive the vaccine under the government’s plan.”

Mass vaccination campaigns are being rolled out in high-risk areas, such as Bangkok’s Khlong Toey slum where a cluster of infections was reported, as well as Phuket and Koh Samui, tourist islands that are said to be of “economic significance.” Health officials are trying to hit herd immunity on the 2 islands to reopen to foreign tourists.

Expats in Phuket who have a valid work permit can now register for a state Covid-19 vaccine. The registration must be under the company name and expats are told to have the company’s human resources staff assist with the registration process.

While no official announcement has been made regarding expats in Koh Samui, some foreigners who work as English teachers on the island say they have received both doses of the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine. Schools apparently helped with the registration process, but some teachers say they told to keep quiet about getting the vaccine. Some did not receive a vaccine certificate or any other documentation confirming that they are vaccinated against the coronavirus.

SOURCE: VOA

 

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Phuket

ICU beds for Covid-19 patients in Phuket are close to a “critical” low

Tanutam Thawan

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FILE PHOTO

Covid-19 patients in severe condition may have to been transferred from a government hospital in Phuket to a private hospital as the number of available hospital beds at public intensive care units in Phuket is close to a “critical” low, according to Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Chalermpong Sukontapol.

There are 9 ICU rooms at the Vachira Phuket Hospital. 5 are being used for Covid-19 patients with severe symptoms while the other 4 rooms are for those with mild symptoms and are under observation before being moved to another bed.

“If the 9 rooms are full of severe symptom cases, that will be a big critical stage. We may need to transfer our patients to other provinces or private hospitals, which may involve additional costs.”

He says 50% of the Covid-19 patients in Phuket are asymptomatic while 30% have mild symptoms and 10% have severe symptoms. For most of those with severe symptoms, the virus has moved to their lungs and they are in need of special equipment, like ventilators, to help them breathe and Charlempong says those patients need to be under close observation.

SOURCE: Phuket News

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

For travellers to Phuket, testing is out, quarantine is in

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Phuket Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong (via Facebook)

The on-again-off-again plans for testing people for Covid-19 as they arrive in Phuket will be replaced by quarantine after May 15, according to Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong’s latest announcement. In an online video broadcast last night, the vice governor confirmed the new scheme after Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew first mentioned it in an executive meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday.

There are now 25 provinces on the Phuket red zone list that they instated on April 22, with anyone arriving from those places required to have proof that they are either fully vaccinated or tested negative for Covid-19 within the last 72 hours. Without proof, people have to take a rapid antigen test to confirm they did not have Covid-19 before they would be allowed on the island. The test was first set to be 300 baht for everyone, and later controversially made free for Thai people and 500 baht for foreigners.

There had been some back and forth with budget concerns of being able to provide the mass testing and who would pay how much for continued testing. Perhaps requiring people to quarantine in Phuket is cheaper than testing them when they arrive (cheaper for Phuket officials anyway).

The original scheme was set to expire May 15, and announcements were made about extending the plan and stopping testing right away. For now, this debate seems to have settled on replacing the testing with a mandatory quarantine upon entering Phuket.

The vice-governor explained that the rapid antigen test will continue through May 14, and then starting May 15, anyone who arrives without a vaccine or a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of arriving in Phuket will be required to quarantine for 14 days. They set a goal of zero new infections by the end of the next two weeks. And he stated they are committed to doing whatever it takes as “Phuket cannot continue with this risk”.

Speaking to The Phuket News… “We want to send a sign to the country that we are cleaning up our province. The 3 vice governors [in Phuket] have been ordered to take care of each district by cooperating with local administration officers as well as community leaders to do proactive screening,”

After announcing the quarantine plan for Phuket, the vice governor spoke confidently that in the near future the island will have enough jabs to vaccinate every person on the island. Religious leaders from any faith are currently being vaccinated because of their general proximity to people during religious ceremonies and practices.

Vice Governor Piyapong pled with people with the people of Phuket who were on the fence about Covid-19 vaccinations, anti-vaxxers, or those otherwise resisting getting the jabs needed to reach herd immunity.

“If you are still deciding whether or not to get vaccinated, please come to get vaccinated”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

 

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