Another Thai protest leader says has COVID-19 after jail stint

FILE PHOTO: Protest leader Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul, who has spent eight weeks in detention on charges of insulting the country's king, shows a three-finger salut as she leaves after she was granted bail at the Central Women's Correctional Institute in Bangkok, Thailand, May 6, 2021. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Another leader from Thailand's anti-government protest movement has been infected with the coronavirus after spending eight weeks in jail pending trial on charges of insulting the country's powerful king.

Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul, who was released on bail last week from pre-trial detention, said on her Twitter account on Wednesday that she was being treated in a hospital after testing positive for the virus following her release.

Two others detainees from the protest movement, including human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa and Chukiat "Justin" Saengowng, have also tested positive for COVID-19. They are also charged with insulting the monarchy.

The corrections department said on Wednesday that it found 2,835 COVID-19 infections at two detention facilities where the protest leaders were held, after conducting a total of 17,000 tests, which included all inmates and staff.

Thailand reported a new daily record of 34 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, caused by a third wave of infections since the start of April that has seen its overall case number triple, and deaths more than quadruple.

The prisons cases are not included in the country's daily tally, which cited 1,983 new infections on Wednesday. Thailand has reported 88,907 cases and 468 fatalities overall.

Panusaya said she had no symptoms and had tested negative while in prison on April 22. After her release, she stayed home for three days before getting tested.

Thailand is seeking to shore up supplies of COVID-19 vaccines and has yet to start its mass immunisation drive, with only 1.9 million doses administered so far, mostly to health workers and at-risk groups.

It is currently accepting bookings for vaccinations via a mobile application but will allow walk-ins from June, when the main inoculation programme gets underway, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Ed Davies, Martin Petty)

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