Thailand uses hotels beds for COVID-19 patients after surge in cases

The new cases took the total number of infections to 39,038, with deaths remaining at 97

  
Health workers get ready to collect samples for further testing at Thanon Mitr Market, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bangkok, Thailand, January 19, 2021.

Health workers get ready to collect samples for further testing at Thanon Mitr Market, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bangkok, Thailand, January 19, 2021.

REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa

BANGKOK  - 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 currently being treated, the medical sector could be put under additional strain.

The government has set up over 20,000 beds at field hospitals across the country at community centres and gyms.

Hotels and hospitals are also partnering up to set up "hospitels" to treat asymptomatic patients, the health ministry said.

Currently 5,000 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, the 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 up with hospitals that require extra beds.

The hotels range from three- to five-star facilities and are mostly in the outskirts of Bangkok, the epicentre of the latest outbreak, which saw 312 new infections on Friday.

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.

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.

Authorities aim to get the new outbreak under control within a month, health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said, ahead of an announcement of a series of new measures later on Friday.

The measures being discussed include closing entertainment venues, clubs, bars, massage parlours and schools nationwide for at least two weeks, Anutin said on Thursday.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat Editing by Ed Davies) ((chayut.setboonsarng@tr.com, Twitter: @ChayutSet; +66854849033;))

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