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Phuket Opinion: Bangkok says so

Phuket Opinion: Bangkok says so

PHUKET: Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) Chief Thanit Sermkaew deserves some credit for going public with an explanation of why the mandatory daily updates on the Wuhan coronavirus situation in Phuket suddenly went silent on actual information last week.

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By The Phuket News

Sunday 23 February 2020, 09:00AM


Secretary of the Minister of Public Health Watcharapong Koowijitsuwan presided over the ‘Big Cleaning Day’ event staged at Phuket International Airport on Wednesday (Feb 19) to show the public that airport staff are keeping common-touch areas clean – which airport staff have been doing since the virus broke out. Photo: PR Dept

Secretary of the Minister of Public Health Watcharapong Koowijitsuwan presided over the ‘Big Cleaning Day’ event staged at Phuket International Airport on Wednesday (Feb 19) to show the public that airport staff are keeping common-touch areas clean – which airport staff have been doing since the virus broke out. Photo: PR Dept

“This is by order of the Ministry of Health in Bangkok to not give out any information,” he said.

No one is going to argue with that. Considering the mess of information that has came out of Bangkok in the past week, it is actually very believable.

But to understand the position local officials are in you have to understand that kriengjai dominates nearly every facet of social interaction. Kriengjai translates as “consideration”, but is also used to describe deference to the point a Thai will not challenge a superior’s authority just for the sake of avoiding any conflict.

Kriengjai applies as a standard accepted behaviour more so in the realm of officialdom than on the streets. There are serious consequences for calling out your boss as the person responsible for what you are being blamed for, and Mr Thanit deserves support for at least letting us know.

However, we still hope that if there were something of such importance that people in Phuket should know, like any actual confirmed virus cases in Phuket, that Dr Thanit would tell us that too.

Yet it is the lack of information about the virus situation that is killing any hope that officials can be believed. Clear, accurate details of any persons being identified as even suspected of being infected must be known for public safety. The lack of this information only allows the rumour mill to gain momentum, and in the age of mobile phones and social media, rumours spread much faster than actual reports.

Just as an example, one unsubstantiated report circulating the island last week claimed that of the 10 people last reported as just under observation on suspicion of being infected with the virus were infected and were being held in isolation in hospital. This is how dangerous rumours can be – and worse, no one in the public sphere knows if it is true.

To cite one diplomatic figure speaking frankly to The Phuket News this week about this issue, even one confirmed case would not be terminal for Phuket. We just need to know exactly what is being done about it and that the action taken is appropriate .

That would build confidence among tourists that Phuket is likely to be a safe place to visit.

But so far, if you want to know who is doing the most damage to Phuket’s tourism image, it has to be officials in Bangkok.

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fionoula | 24 February 2020 - 10:58:07

Chinese students are flying from China to Phuket - staying for 14 days (mixing freely, shopping etc) - then they are flying to Australia. These students are not allowed entry to Australia if they have been in China in the last 14 days. So basically these Chinese students are spending what should be a 14 day quarantine period (in any responsible country) putting people in Phuket at risk.

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