Bangkok, May 13 (EFE).- A Covid-19 outbreak at two Bangkok prisons has led to a daily record of almost 5,000 new cases reported by Thailand’s health authorities Thursday.
The Southeast Asian country, which for 2020 kept Covid-19 mostly at bay with around 6,280 cases and 60 deaths, is in the midst of its worst outbreak since the start of its epidemic.
Authorities reported 32 new deaths and 4,887 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to almost 94,000 with 518 deaths.
Of Thursday’s caseload, 2,835 are inmates that contracted Covid-19 in two prisons in the capital, which the Department of Corrections announced Wednesday evening in a statement. It did not say when the prisoners were found to be sick, nor when they were tested.
The cases account for 54 percent of inmates at Bangkok Remand Prison and just under quarter at Central Women’s Correctional Institution, rights NGO iLaw said.
To curb the spread of Covid-19 in the prisons, authorities have ordered the temporary closure of all wings, a ban on prison visits and the transfer of serious cases to external hospitals under the supervision of the Corrections department, said the department’s director-general Aryut Sinthoppan in a press conference Thursday.
Asymptomatic cases were being treated in some wings, which have recently been converted into field hospitals, he added.
The announcement of prison cases came a day after prominent student protest leader Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, who was released on bail from one of the affected prisons on May 6, said she had tested positive for Covid-19.
Other student activists have also been infected while in prison, the latest being Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, who on Thursday was transferred to a correctional hospital.
The outbreaks in Bangkok’s overcrowded prisons have been criticized by the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), which reminded the Thai government Thursday of its obligation under international law “to ensure that prisoners and detainees have adequate health protections and care.”
“Besides providing health care and virus testing, the authorities should reduce the detainee population through supervised release of those held on politically motivated charges or for minor offenses, or who face greater risk from underlying health conditions,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director.
“The Thai government needs to be forthright about the Covid-19 outbreaks in its prison system and how it intends to avoid disastrous consequences for those held,” Adams said.
Thailand began vaccinating its almost 70 million population against Covid-19 on Feb. 28, but to date it has only inoculated about 1.8 million people with at least one dose and just over 500,000 people, or 0.78 percent of its population, with two.
The country has re-implemented measures, such as the closure of bars and nightlife establishments, to try to control the ongoing outbreak, linked to the spread of the UK variant of the virus. EFE