Bangkok is boosting its active case finding capacity against new clusters. Credit: BMA

Bangkok still the centre of Covid-19 concern as the infection shows no sign of weakening

The CCSA’s sub-panel and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) have been working out ways to lower down the inclining infection trend, including introducing a mass vaccination program to Bangkok residents

One month after the city faced the first restriction imposed in the third wave of Covid-19 outbreaks, which was declared through regulation No. 20 under the Emergency Decree, the infection in the city has shown no sign of losing its strength.

From the first few outbreaks among high-end entertainment venues in the Thong Lor area, which was first confirmed in early April with the infection cases surpassing a hundred, the virus then spread to upcountry fast, following a long holiday of Songkran, during which people were travelling back home.

The fast-spreading was also because the virus was the new variant from the UK which was fast spreading by nature. The noted virologist, Prof. Dr. Yong Poovorawan, had projected that it would prompt the infection rate to spike up to 170 times compared to the rate last year when also taking loose disease control measures before Songkran into account.

He suggested the disease control zoning be imposed to help curb the fast spreading of the virus, the proposal which was turned down by the government. Read: No curfew, nor lockdown yet: PM Prayut/ GRAPHIC: SIX PROVINCES INCLUDING BANGKOK DECLARED UNDER STRICTEST DISEASE CONTROL ZONE

And since people travelled back to Bangkok, the city has been infected with the virus further in a new form of clusters, which appear in communities or crowded or closed settings in the inner Bangkok. This shifted trend was found to have resulted from close contacts among family or friend circles, causing further concern among authorities.

Among the notable ones is the Klong Toey area, where cases were first reported in late April. As of yesterday, 28 clusters are being reported in 19 districts of Bangkok. Along with its peripheries, the city has seen the number of cumulative cases in this third wave far surpassing upcountry, 41, 770 to 29, 326 (Bangkok alone was 27,785 within one and a half month).

“Since they were clusters in crowded or cramped settings such as communities, markets, offices, construction sites, and malls, the virus has spread widely as a result. According to our analyses, they have resulted from close contacts between people in their circles such as friends, families, and colleagues in offices,” the BMA’s spokesperson Pongsakorn Kwanmuang posted on his Facebook page to sum up the situation last week.

Up to 25 vaccination centers in cooperation with private sector are set up to help the government speed up its mass vaccination program. Credit: Public Health Ministry

Bangkok’s plans

The latest concern is now over cases in a construction site of a giant construction company in the Lak Si area, where 83% or 885 workers have been infected with Covid-19. The authorities are concerned about the cases there as workers are also in contact with at least six communities nearby, where over 6,000 residents live. Over 10 companies are also sub-contractors of the company and their workers are also of concern, according to the spokesperson of the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin.

“Bangkok is the city, which has a population of over 10 million people, many of which are latent. So, we need to look into cases carefully and analyse the situation. We have learned that the virus outbreaks in at least 25 districts were spreading fast and wide. The challenge is how we can slow down the infection rate in such areas,” said Dr. Taweesin, while updating that the infection rate in the city now stands at 6.58% or seven in every 100 people.

Bangkok has been applying active case finding as the main approach to curb the spread of the virus. Around 10,000 cases a day on average are subject to the ACF, but as new clusters keep emerging and challenging the city, the Disease Control Department and the BMA have come up with the plan to inoculate up to 70% of the city’s population within the next two months, according to the department’s director-general, Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong.

“As new cases have been found in workplaces like factories or construction sites, we are also approaching business owners to instruct their workers to follow disease control measures as organizational measures at the same time,” said Dr. Opas.

The newly set up Busarakam field hospital to take mild and moderate cases. Credit: Public Health Ministry

The pressure

With the inclining infection trend, the city’s hospitals and medical facilities and services have been under pressure. The so-called hospitels, where hotels are invited to join the government program to help take asymptomatic cases are more and more introduced, along with field hospitals. Some have been turned into a more serious facility, like the building in Muang Thong Thani to help receive mild and moderate cases (yellow list) to help ease pressure on hospitals.

Compared to last year, over 25,700 beds, from around 1,000, have been added to the system to help take Covid-19 cases in Bangkok and its peripheries. 1,000 of these are ICU beds. As of May 11, there were only 170 of them left to take severe cases. Around 33 severe cases are estimated to come in per day, causing stress on the city’s ICU units, according to the Public Health Ministry.