BANGKOK, April 23 (Reuters): Thailand needs to add more intensive care unit (ICU) beds at hospitals to tackle an influx of Covid-19 patients, an official said on Friday, as the country struggles with a third wave of infections, the most severe it has faced up to now.
Based on a daily rate of 1,500 new cases, Thailand will only have enough ICU beds for around one more week in Bangkok and just under three weeks nationwide, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government's Covid-19 task force.
"There will be impact. We don't know how it will end, but we're assessing the situation under the worst-case scenario," Taweesin told reporters.
"Having ICU beds to last one week is not enough. We must add more."
His warning came after Thailand reported 2,070 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic started.
Taweesin said the health ministry and Bangkok's local administration were working on adding more ICU beds, on top of around 1,000 already available.
Thailand has a policy of admitting into care anyone who tests positive for Covid-19, even those without symptoms.
In order to avoid filling up hospitals, authorities last week set up more than 20,000 beds at field hospitals and said hotels would partner with hospitals to admit asymptomatic patients.
Thailand has managed to keep its caseload far lower than many other countries, but the new outbreak, which includes the highly-transmissible B.1.1.7 variant, has caused more than 20,000 domestic infections with 27 fatalities in just 23 days.
The new outbreak, which began in a nightclub district of Bangkok, has spread across the country.
Schools, bars and massage parlours have been closed until next month and alcohol sales banned in restaurants in a bid to curb the epidemic.
The outbreak, which accounts for more than a third of Thailand's 50,183 cases so far, also comes as the country takes tentative steps to reopen to foreign visitors after a year of tightened border controls,
Thailand has recorded 121 deaths due to the coronavirus. - Reuters