Over 12,000 Covid cases detected in Thai prisons

Bangkok, May 19 (EFE).- At least 12,767 coronavirus infections have been detected in Thai prisons, including 1,117 cases on Wednesday, in an outbreak which has led to authorities trying to speed up plans to free around 50,000 vulnerable prisoners.

Prisons have become some of the biggest epicenters of the latest wave of the pandemic, which has taken the total number of Covid infections in Thailand to 116,949, with 75 percent of the cases being reported since April, according to data released by the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The prison cases reported on Wednesday account for one-third of the 3,304 infections registered nationwide, while 678 people have been killed by the pandemic so far.

The director general of the Department of Corrections, Ayuth Sintoppant, said on Wednesday that more hospital beds were being set up in the prisons apart from authorities intensifying hygiene measures as the cases surged.

The Thai parliament is drawing up a legal reform to allow the release of elderly and vulnerable prisoners convicted of minor crimes, with the measure expected to be approved in June.

Around 50,000 inmates could benefit from the reform, which would reduce overcrowding in packed Thai prisons that house over 300,000 prisoners.

The highest number of prison infections have been detected in Bangkok, the epicenter of the current wave of the virus, while the jails in the northern Chiang Mai province have been affected to a lesser extent.

The infected inmates include a number of student protest leaders kept in provisional custody on charges of Lèse-majesté – punishable in Thailand by 3 to 15 years in prison – although some of them were released on bail last week.

Thailand, with a population of around 70 million – began anti-Covid vaccinations on Feb. 28, but has so far managed to administer at least one dose of vaccine to just 2.44 million people, while 860,000 residents or 1.18 percent of the population has received both the necessary doses.

Authorities have enforced several measures such as closing schools, parks, bars and nightlife to try and control the outbreak, which has been linked to the so-called British strain of the virus.

However, from Monday restaurants in the low-risk provinces – including Bangkok – will be allowed to offer dine-in facilities until 9 pm, with seating capacity limited to 25 percent. EFE


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