Thai capital Bangkok starts Covid-19 vaccine bookings as deaths reach record

A Thai man getting his vaccination at the Bang Sue Grand Station in Bangkok on May 24, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand's coronavirus epicentre Bangkok has opened registration for Covid-19 vaccines to millions of residents ahead of a mass inoculation roll-out from next month as the authorities battle the nation's deadliest wave of the outbreak since the pandemic began.

More than 7 million Bangkok residents from 18 to 59 years old can book their vaccine appointments online via websites or a mobile application, and in person at convenience stores from Thursday (May 27).

It's the first time people of the age group have been able to register for inoculations after the government earlier prioritised senior citizens, people with underlying conditions, those in areas with high rates of infections, or communities in areas preparing to reopen for tourism this year.

Since an early April Covid-19 resurgence, infections have spread from Bangkok's night entertainment venues to the city's crowded communities, prisons, and most recently construction-worker camps.

The South-east Asian nation on Thursday reported 3,323 new cases, while 47 deaths marked the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began. Total cases have more than quadrupled since April 1, with cumulative deaths up more than nine-fold.

Thailand's inoculation deployment has so far been slow due to limited supplies of AstraZeneca and Sinovac serums. Some 3.2 million doses of the vaccines have been administered, with about 3 per cent of the population already receiving at least one shot, Health Ministry data showed.

About 7 per cent of residents in Bangkok have already had their first injection, and the city plans to increase that number to 70 per cent by the end of July.

The country's biggest opposition party, Pheu Thai, on Thursday criticised the government's handling of the outbreak, saying that the administration "failed in both public-health and economic measures."

Former Finance Minister Kittiratt Na Ranong said planned economic-recovery and relief packages were "too little and too unreasonable."

This week Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha's government unveiled a 500 billion baht (S$21.17 billion) borrowing plan to fund to new stimulus.

Mr Danucha Pichayanan, secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Council, said on Thursday that the government is planning new measures to "give oxygen" to small businesses and help them retain workers.

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