Hospitals in Thailand's capital Bangkok and surrounding province are running out of beds due to a jump in COVID-19 patients, a health official said on Thursday, as the country reported a record number of infections for the fourth time this week.
Thailand has in the last few months been struggling with its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, first detected in India.
The country's COVID-19 task force reported on Thursday 17,669 coronavirus cases and 165 deaths, both record highs, while it said 21 of the fatalities died at home.
"We don't know where to put the sick people anymore, the ER (emergency room) units in many hospitals have to be temporarily closed because they no longer have bed spaces," Somsak Akksilp, head of the Department of Medical Services, told a news conference.
In Bangkok and nearby provinces, more than 1,200 people were waiting for hospital beds and over 6,000 called a hot line over the past week requesting treatment, health authorities said.
There are more than 37,000 hospital beds in Bangkok, according to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.
Earlier in the pandemic, all COVID-19 patients were admitted to hospitals, but Somsak said authorities last month brought in home isolation for more than 30,000 people in Bangkok and surrounding provinces. The government has also been converting public places in Bangkok into temporary field hospital for COVID-19 patients as the spike in cases strains the city's health system.
The jump in infections has increased pressure on the government to boost the sluggish pace of vaccinations, with only 5.6% of Thailand's more than 66 million people fully vaccinated.
Thailand won plaudits for containing the coronavirus for most of last year, but authorities have struggled to halt the wave of cases starting in April that has taken total infections to 561,030, with 4,562 fatalities.
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat Editing by Ed Davies) ((Ed.Davies@thomsonreuters.com;))