BANGKOK: Thailand reported on Monday (May 17) a daily record of 9,635 new COVID-19 cases, nearly three-quarters of which were prisoners infected in jail clusters, as the country struggles with a third wave of infections.
The combined cases bring its total infections to 111,082. Thailand also announced 25 new deaths on Monday, bringing its overall coronavirus fatalities to 614.
The COVID-19 taskforce said 10,748 inmates had been infected with the coronavirus this month according to tests on 24,357 prisoners in eight jails.
Authorities have been carrying out testing in seven other prisons and more positive cases are expected, said Aryut Sinthoppan, director-general of the Department of Corrections.
“Prisons are overcrowded, so there are limitations to hygiene and disease control efforts,” Aryut told reporters, adding that authorities aim to test every prisoner.
Thailand has an inmate population of 310,000 in its 143 jails.
The prisons spike follows positive tests for several hospitalised leaders of anti-government protests who were held in pre-trial detention accused of insulting the monarchy, prompting some calls for greater transparency.
Thailand’s current wave of infections since the start of April has seen its overall coronavirus cases more than triple and deaths increase six times, following a year of success in containing earlier outbreaks.
Thailand has administered 2.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to frontline workers and high-risk groups so far, using imported doses of vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech and AstraZeneca.
A broader vaccination drive is expected to start in June with locally manufactured AstraZeneca doses. Vaccine registration opened to the public this weekend with a goal of inoculating 70 per cent of adults in the country of more than 66 million people.
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