Thailand sets record daily death toll for third time in four days

BANGKOK: Thailand yesterday reported 15 new coronavirus deaths, setting a daily record for the third time in four days in its worst outbreak yet, as an expert warned of big problems ahead from insufficient testing.

"If we are not screening people who can quietly spread the virus, there will be subsequent outbreaks and mutations, rendering immunisation ineffective," head of the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Centre Thiravat Hemachudha wrote on Facebook.

His comments come amid criticism of the government for its slow response and delayed vaccine roll-out.

Thailand has reported more than half of its 59,687 Covid-19 cases this month alone, and 69 of its 163 fatalities.

It has closed parks, gyms, cinemas and schools in the outbreak in epicentre Bangkok, but malls and restaurants remain open.

Professor Thiravat said Thailand's third wave comes from the saturation of undetected cases accumulated since last year. The roughly 10-20 cases a day prior to the new outbreak were because testing was insufficient, he said.

Thailand has not conducted mass testing but uses a targeted testing approach. Reliable testing data has been difficult to obtain. Labs are currently processing around 40,000 to 50,000 samples daily, the Health Ministry said.

"Real proactive surveillance means everyone needs to be tested, with or without symptoms..." Prof Thiravat added.

Testing in Thailand is free only if someone has had potential exposure and presents flu-like symptoms. - REUTERS