BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand reported on Friday its fifth record daily tally of coronavirus cases this week, as authorities set up thousands of field hospitals to cope with an influx of patients and lined up hotels to provide extra beds for those without symptoms.
All positive cases have to be admitted into care under Thai rules, and with 10,461 patients being treated the medical sector could be put under additional strain.
Authorities also announced the closure of bars, massage parlours and schools starting on Sunday for at least two weeks to curb the outbreak.
Alcohol sales in restaurants are banned and activities involving more than 50 people are also prohibited, coronavirus taskforce spokesman Taweesin Wisanuyothin said.
Eighteen provinces including Bangkok had been labelled as red zones where restaurants and convenience stores close early, with the rest of the country categorised as orange zones.
More than 20,000 beds have been set up at field hospitals across the country at community centres and gyms. Hotels and hospitals are also partnering to set up “hospitels” to treat asymptomatic patients, the health ministry said.
Five thousand beds across 23 hotels had been readied, it said in a statement. About 2,000 beds are occupied and an additional 7,000 more could be added.
Hotels already hosting travellers to Thailand for quarantine were best positioned for this, Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, president of the Thai Hotels Association, told Reuters.
“They have all the processes in place such as preventing cross contamination, wearing PPE suits, cleaning, making sure floors are not carpeted,” she said.
Hotels register through the health ministry and are matched with hospitals that require extra beds.
The hotels range from three- to five-star facilities and are mostly on the outskirts of Bangkok, the epicentre of the latest outbreak, which saw 312 new infections on Friday.
(GRAPHIC: Thailand reports record daily COVID-19 cases as third wave hits Thailand reports record daily COVID-19 cases as third wave hits – https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/THAILAND/rlgpdzkdapo/chart.png)
Thailand has so far managed to contain the number of cases relative to other countries, but the new outbreak comes as many have travelled during the country’s Songkran new year holidays this week and as vaccination rates are still low.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the government was in contact for the possible procurement of the Sputnik V and Pfizer vaccines. So far, it has two million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine and 117,300 shots from AstraZeneca.
Thailand reported 1,582 new coronavirus cases on Friday, marking the highest number of daily infections since the start of the pandemic.
The new cases took the total number of infections to 39,038, with deaths remaining at 97.
(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Ed Davies and David Holmes)