Health officials have rushed to vaccinate thousands of people in Bangkok as new Covid-19 cases spread through densely populated low-income areas in the capital’s central business district.
The current outbreak spread from night entertainment spots to the Klong Toey area, an area of Bangkok with about 100,000 people living in a 1 square mile area. There, health workers are trying to vaccinate up to 3,000 people per day, hoping to have at least 50,000 people inoculated within two weeks. They are also testing intensively to try to identify and isolate those who are infected.
But that may not be enough, local leaders say.
“There are all kinds of people in Klong Toey, from day laborers and taxi drivers to business owners. They travel to work in different areas, not only in Bangkok but also other provinces. We cannot seal the area and cannot stop them from moving around,” Sittichat Angkhasittisiri, chairman of the Klong Toey Block 1-2-3 community, told the Associated Press.
Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul and Patrick Quinn report for AP that Thailand recorded 2,112 new cases and 15 deaths on Wednesday. The country has been reporting about 2,000 cases a day recently, often with double-digit deaths in the third mass outbreak since the pandemic started.
About 30,000 people were being treated in hospitals and in field hospitals constructed to make up for the lack of enough hospital beds and intensive care units, especially in Bangkok.
Health officials warned that caseloads were bound to jump after millions traveled around the country during Songkran national holidays in mid-April, even as authorities were urging people to stay home and take more precautions against the virus.
The country has vaccinated only 2% of its 60 million people in a faltering, delayed inoculation program.
Many of the newly reported cases were in the nearby Lumphini district, which is home to nearly 30,000 people, most of them also living in crowded old houses in narrow alleys squeezed between massive construction projects, canals, factories, expressways and embassies.
“We found a confirmed case on 20 April. He tried to get a (hospital) bed but could not, so finally he had to isolate himself in his car . . . because he was afraid of spreading it to family members,” Angkhasittisiri said. “After that, more cases were found.”
The tens of thousands of foreigners legally living in Thailand do not know if there will be any way to be vaccinated anytime soon.
“The vaccines right now are only reserved for Thai people who are now at a high-risk level or living in the severe outbreak areas. Expats should wait for a clear policy from the government,” the newspaper Bangkok Post quoted Rungrueng Kitphati, spokesperson for the Public Health Ministry, as saying. There will soon be a surplus of vaccines so it will not be difficult to get them.”