BANGKOK - Thai health authorities on Tuesday assured the public there were sufficient hospital beds for the rising number of coronavirus patients, amid a new wave of infections this month that has spread fast across the country.
Thailand's policy of hospitalising all those who test positive for COVID-19, even those without symptoms, has prompted concern about its capacity in the event of a surge in the number of patients with severe symptoms.
Authorities reported 1,443 new coronavirus cases and 4 new deaths on Tuesday, bringing total infections to 45,185 with 108 fatalities overall. Thailand has been credited for its swift containment of earlier outbreaks, but has yet to start mass vaccinations.
The current wave includes the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant, which has been blamed for big jumps in infections in many countries, including the Philippines, where hospitals are struggling.
Of the more than 15,000 Thai cases this month, 223 have severe symptoms and 55 of those were using ventilators, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government's COVID-19 taskforce.
The health ministry has asked all hospitals to increase by 50% or double their intensive care capacity to prepare for a possible rise in more severe cases.
There are currently more than 9,000 hospital beds available nationwide, up from 7,000 last week, officials said. Thailand saw record cases on most days last week.
Authorities are also drawing up a plan to allow patients with less serious symptoms to self-quarantine at home, but said this would not be implemented immediately.
The government is currently sending those with mild symptom to field hospitals and hotels that are being converted into care facilities.
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty) ((Panu.Wongchaemail@example.com; +6626488658;))