Thai virologist warns against Delta variant as Covid-19 deaths hit record high

A health worker administering a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at Bang Sue Central Railway Station in Bangkok on June 22, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Well-known Thai virologist Yong Poovorawan on Wednesday (June 23) urged the government to inoculate as many people as possible to prevent an outbreak of the Covid-19 Delta variant, as the country reported a record increase in virus-linked deaths.

Citing a study by the Department of Medical Sciences, Dr Yong said 90 per cent of Covid-19 infections in Thailand were of the Alpha strain, followed by the Delta strain (9 per cent) and the Beta strain (1 per cent).

However, he predicted that the number of Delta-linked infections, found mostly among young workers, would gradually rise in the next three to four months.

He also pointed out that the vaccines currently administered in Thailand offer protection against only the Alpha strain.

Currently, the vaccines used in Thailand are predominantly manufactured by AstraZeneca or Sinovac, while the government has ordered doses from other drugmakers like Pfizer-BioNTech.

"It will soon become necessary to monitor the spread of each strain to improve disease control," Dr Yong said, adding that more variants of the virus could emerge in the future.

"We believe new Covid-19 vaccines will be produced next year to deal with the different strains."

Thailand reported on Wednesday a new daily record of 51 Covid-19 fatalities, bringing total deaths to 1,744 since the pandemic started last year. The country also logged 3,174 new infections, bringing total confirmed cases to 228,539.

Of the new cases, 2,392 tested positive in hospitals, 720 were found via proactive testing, 36 were found in prisons and 26 were arrivals from overseas.

More than 85 per cent of new cases and deaths came after April this year as Thailand battles its third and most deadly wave.

The record death tally comes as the Thai Department of Medical Services grew concerned about the hospital bed situation in Bangkok as rising infections spurred an urgent search for more beds.

Department director-general Somsak Akksilp said on Tuesday that Bangkok and the surrounding areas saw more than 1,000 new Covid-19 infections per day for over two months, leading to hospitals having inadequate beds to treat patients in red and yellow groups.

Patients in the red group are those with severe symptoms that require respirators, while those in the yellow group display moderate symptoms but have underlying health problems that require close monitoring.

"Data from June 21 indicates there are 409 patients in the red group being treated at hospitals in Bangkok, with only 20 beds left for patients with severe symptoms," Dr Somsak revealed.

"Meanwhile, 3,937 patients in the yellow group are in Bangkok hospitals and there are only around 300 beds available for new patients in this group.

"The inadequacy of hospital beds has resulted in the department's bed allotment system becoming extremely backed up.

"The department is working with all related parties to find new beds for Covid-19 patients as soon as possible," he added.

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