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Health officials are in a rush to vaccinate thousands of people in Bangkok as new Covid-19 cases spread to high-density, low-income areas in the capital’s central business district.

The current outbreak spread from nightly entertainment spots to the Klong Toey area, an area in Bangkok that is home to approximately 100,000 people in an area of ​​1 square mile. Health workers there are trying to vaccinate up to 3,000 people a day in the hope that at least 50,000 people will be vaccinated within two weeks. They also test extensively to try to identify and isolate those who are infected.

But that can’t be enough, say local guides.

“There are all kinds of people in Klong Toey, from day laborers and taxi drivers to business owners. You travel to work in different areas, not only in Bangkok but also in other provinces. We cannot seal the area or prevent them from moving, ”Sittichat Angkhasittisiri, chairman of the Klong Toey Block 1-2-3 community, told the Associated Press.

Health workers administer a dose of Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine to residents of the Klong Toey area in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: Anuthep Cheysakron / AP

Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul and Patrick Quinn report for AP that Thailand recorded 2,112 new cases and 15 deaths on Wednesday. The country has recently reported around 2,000 cases a day, often with double-digit deaths in the third mass outbreak since the pandemic began.

About 30,000 people were treated in hospitals and field hospitals that were built to make up for the lack of enough hospital beds and intensive care units, particularly in Bangkok.

Health officials warned the number of cases was bound to rise after millions traveled across the country during the Songkran National Holiday in mid-April, despite authorities urging people to stay home and take more precautions against the virus.

The country vaccinated only 2% of its 60 million people in a stalled, delayed vaccination program.

Many of the newly reported cases occurred in the nearby Lumphini neighborhood, which is home to nearly 30,000 people. Most of them also live in overcrowded old houses in narrow streets that are between massive construction projects, canals, factories, expressways and embassies.

“We found a confirmed case on April 20th. He tried to get a (hospital) bed but couldn’t, so he ended up having to isolate himself in his car. . . because he was afraid to pass it on to family members, ”Angkhasittisiri said. “After that, more cases were found.”

The tens of thousands of foreigners living legally in Thailand do not know if there is any way to get vaccinated anytime soon.

“The vaccines are currently reserved only for Thai people who are at high risk or who live in areas with severe outbreaks. Expats should wait for a clear policy from the government ”, quoted the Bangkok Post newspaper Rungrueng Kitphati, spokesman for the Ministry of Health. There will be an excess of vaccines soon so it won’t be difficult to get them. “

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Robert Dunfee