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By Linda Khoo Hui Li
BANGKOK, April 19 -- A fresh wave of COVID-19 infections is sweeping across Thailand, with 1,390 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths reported over the last 24 hours, giving rise to concerns that there may not be enough hospital beds to treat those infected.
On Sunday, the COVID-19 cases hit another record high where a total of 1,767 new cases were recorded, taking the infection tally in the kingdom to 43,742 cases with 104 fatalities. It was the fifth consecutive day that Thailand has recorded more than 1,000 cases in its daily tally.
Prior to the second outbreak in mid-December, Thailand managed to keep the COVID-19 in check with the number of new cases remaining relatively low with just over 4,000 cases and 60 deaths.
However, the latest flareup of the virus that started at nightspots in Bangkok spread rapidly to all 77 provinces in the kingdom, resulting in 14,879 positive COVID-19 cases and 10 fatalities in just 19 days, since April 1.
The rapid surge in infections sparked hospital bed shortage concerns as Thailand requires all COVID-19 patients to be admitted and treated at hospitals to reduce transmission.
Local media reported that many have been desperately waiting for hospital beds as private hospitals could not accommodate them.
To cope with the spike in COVID-19 caseload, the government has ordered the authorities to prepare 25,000 extra beds at community centres and gyms, as well as sports arena nationwide. Hotels and hospitals are also partnering to set up "hospitels" to treat asymptomatic patients.
Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation urged universities and educational institutions to set up field hospitals.
In Bangkok, the epicentre of the kingdom's third wave, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has set up four field hospitals with 1,250 beds, including a 400-bed field hospital in Nong Chok district of Bangkok for asymptomatic patients set to open today.
A visit by Bernama to the field hospital in Nong Chok district on Sunday saw workers racing against time making final preparation for the opening.
Bangkok Governor Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang reiterated the capital has sufficient hospital beds to cope with the influx of COVID-19 patients.
He said about 6,000 beds at hospitals, field hospitals (including those set up by the military) as well as hospitels were available under BMA's jurisdiction.
“The latest outbreak is spreading fast this time. We hope the latest restrictions including closures of educational institutions and nightspots for two weeks will help control this round of outbreak in Bangkok,” he said.
The Public Health Ministry is considering allowing COVID-19 patients who live alone to undergo treatment at their respective homes.
Besides that, the Department of Medical Services is in the process of drafting a self-care guidebook for COVID-19 patients. The guidebook is for asymptomatic patients to undergo self-isolation at home.
Meanwhile, the director of the BMA's Medical Service Department Suksan Kittisupakorn said medical personnel have been facing unprecedented workload following the sharp increase of COVID-19 infections in the capital.
“We are fighting a war against COVID-19. Despite the challenges and constraints, we are doing our best to provide the best healthcare to the people.
“The fight against COVID-19 continues,” he told Bernama.