Thailand reaches 1 million Covid-19 cases

People queueing outside the Central Vaccination Centre in Bangkok on July 22, 2021.
People queueing outside the Central Vaccination Centre in Bangkok on July 22, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thailand passed the one million mark in coronavirus cases on Friday (Aug 20), 97 per cent of which were recorded in the past five months, as the country struggles to boost vaccinations and get on top of one of Asia's most severe Covid-19 outbreaks.

The authorities on Friday reported 19,851 cases and 240 fatalities, taking total confirmed infections past one million and deaths to 8,826, a death ratio of 0.87 per cent of confirmed cases.

Thailand had kept the coronavirus largely under control and enjoyed only partial social restrictions for much of the pandemic until it was hit in April by the virulent Alpha variant, followed later by the highly transmissible Delta variant, at a time when few people were vaccinated.

Health officials have been rushing to shore up vaccine supply, having inoculated just 8.3 per cent of its population of more than 66 million.

With concerns about the efficacy of inactivated virus vaccines against the Delta variant, Thailand is planning to administer booster shots, health official Sopon Iamsirithawon told reporters. 

Either the AstraZeneca vaccine or mRNA-type vaccines will be given to the estimated 3.4 million people in Thailand who were administered the Sinovac jab. 

Booster doses have already been given to medical and front-line workers who received the Chinese vaccine. 

The authorities are also mixing AstraZeneca and Sinovac shots to boost immunity and as a workaround for supply issues.

The government's handling of the coronavirus crisis, including its vaccination policy, has fuelled a recent revival of protests against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who has stood by his administration's strategy.