A freight warehouse at Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport has been turned into a 1,800-bed field hospital, as the country grapples with its most severe outbreak since the pandemic began.
Hospitals in the capital Bangkok, where the epidemic is concentrated, have been inundated with patients and forced to refuse people. The country reported a record 17,669 deaths and 165 deaths on Thursday.
Rienthong Nanna, director of Mongkutwattana Hospital, told Reuters on Wednesday that the field hospital was designed for patients with moderate symptoms.
“But if the condition of the patients deteriorates, they will be transferred to our other field hospital called Pitak Rachan (Protect the King) Field Hospital,” said Rienthong, a retired major-general and ultra-royalist leader. .
He added that more field hospitals would be needed as cases increased.
The number of cases in Thailand has risen from less than 30,000 infections in early April to more than 540,000. Public health experts have warned that limited testing means statistics are likely underestimated.
The government faces growing anger over its response to the pandemic, including its vaccination program, which critics say is too slow and lacks transparency.
Just over 5% of the Thai population is fully vaccinated.
The Thai government has been accused of relying too much on AstraZeneca produced in the country by Siam Bioscience, a royal company that had not previously supplied vaccines. A prominent opposition politician who criticized the arrangement earlier this year was later charged with breaking the country’s strict lese majesty law, which can lead to 15 years in prison.
The government also warned that it would prosecute people and media who disseminate inaccurate information and invoked emergency measures to ban the sharing of information that could cause misunderstandings or instill fear in the public.
Six major journalists’ associations in Thailand condemned the move, saying it revealed “an intention to suppress the freedom of expression enjoyed by the media and the public”.
Teenage rapper Milli was recently indicted for criticizing the Thai government’s handling of the pandemic on social media.