BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand on Monday reported a new daily record of 31 coronavirus deaths, the health ministry said, as the Southeast Asian country grapples with a third wave of infections.
After managing to largely control the virus for around a year through shutdowns and strict border controls, Thailand has faced a spike in cases since early April that is proving harder to control and putting pressure on parts of the medical system.
The ministry recorded 2,041 new COVID-19 cases, taking the country’s total number to 71,025 since the pandemic began last year. The total number of fatalities now stands at 276.
The new outbreak, which includes the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant first detected in Britain, has accounted for more than half of total cases and deaths since the start of the pandemic leaving Thais worried about when it might end.
“It’s horrible this time round,” said 39-year-old bus driver Chaowan Tessana, adding his work days had been halved from 15 days per month to six or seven.
“I don’t know what to do, so I’m just living day by day.”
Authorities say the situation should ease in coming weeks as a result of restrictions including shutting bars and public venues in Bangkok .
Thailand aims to have 70% of the population vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the year, though the rollout has been slower compared with some neighbouring countries.
Registration for vaccinating the general public began on Saturday, with about 16 million people aged over 60 or those with pre-existing medical conditions getting priority.
Mass inoculations are set to begin in June, when the first batch of what is targetted to reach 61 million locally manufactured AstraZeneca doses becomes available.
Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration has approved the AstraZeneca, Sinovac Biotech, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for use so far.
The agency said on Monday it was processing Moderna’s registration request, while India’s Bharat Biotech and Russia’s Sputnik V were also submitting documents for registration.
(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat, Panarat Thepgumpanat and Juarawee Kittisilpa; Editing by Ed Davies)