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Phuket Sandbox woes: 2 more foreign Covid-19 cases, Delta variant



PHOTO: The Phuket Sandbox now has 3 international Covid-19 cases as the Delta variant sneaks onto the island. (via Flickr Jeff Gunn)

The Phuket Sandbox has hit a few hurdles with the revelation of 2 more international arrivals testing positive with Covid-19, as well as the first cases of the Delta and Beta variants on the island. The news comes in the wake of the Governor ordering most of the islands’ schools to close for 14 days due to the rising risk of infections.

Two children aged 8 and 9 just tested positive for Covid-19, according to health officials this evening. Details are still emerging, but they are said to be members of 2 families with a total of 7 family members who arrived last week on international flights at the beginning of the Phuket Sandbox reopening.

The children were confirmed positive for Covid-19 on their second test since arriving in Phuket, given on the 6th or 7th day. They entered the Sandbox unvaccinated as they are too young for Covid-19 vaccines and all their family members had been fully vaccinated already.

The children have been moved to the hospital and the other 5 members of both families were moved to an alternative local quarantine facility for testing and observation.

This marks just the second and third Covid-19 infections from international Sandbox travellers after one man from the UAE was diagnosed with Coronavirus and hospitalised as 13 others on his flight (12 of which now thought to be family members or in the same group of travellers) moved to ALQ facilities along with 7 others who came in contact with the man on the ground.

Authorities are asking people to remain calm and not panic – the number infected out of the 2,500+ arrivals is still statistically very low. Official numbers saw 25 Covid-19 infections in the first week of the Sandbox including 24 domestic transmissions, and this week in the past 3 days uncovered 28 infections, 26 of which were domestic.

To further complicate the Sandbox situation, some worrying details have emerged from a meeting of the Phuket Communicable Disease Control Committee yesterday when it was revealed that both the Beta and Delta variants of Covid-19 have been detected on the island.

Phuket Provincial Public Health Office Chief Dr Kusak Kukiattikoon reported on the 10 new infections yesterday, confirming that they mostly came from Thai people travelling overland from other regions. Unlike international flight passengers, those coming by land are not quarantined on arrival until they receive their first Covid-19 negative test results.

All infected people and anyone in close proximity to them were all immediately quarantined in hopes of keeping the Covid-19 spread to a minimum and the Phuket Sandbox bubble as safe as possible.

More troubling though was Kusak’s revelation that one case of the Delta variant of Covid-19, known to be more contagious and reportedly resistant to the Sinovac vaccine, had been identified in the Phuket Sandbox many days ago. The infected person’s details were not revealed, but it was stated they have been receiving treatment in Phuket for the past 5 days.

On June 30, Kusak had adamantly denied social media rumours that the Delta variant was in Phuket, but it is unclear if the one case had been identified already then. A total of 6 cases of the Beta strain of Covid-19 have been identified in the Phuket Sandbox, 2 new today. Authorities are waiting on assessment and guidance from the CCSA on how to proceed.

Another tidbit to come out of the meeting is the committee discussing a shortage of staffing for the entry ports to Phuket Island, mentioning that there may not be enough staff to properly enforce entry requirements. They discussed adding staff and strengthening enforcement and prosecution of those intentionally violating the rules by charging them under the Communicable Diseases Act.

SOURCE: FRB, The Phuket News


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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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