Thailand and Cambodia rush to halt waves of Covid cases

Two south-east Asian neighbours face a challenge after keeping infection numbers low last year.

After managing to control the coronavirus for much of 2020, Thailand is battling a fresh outbreak of Covid-19, with officials setting up thousands of beds in field hospitals and warning the public to stay at home.

A cluster of Covid cases emerged in Bangkok’s nightlife venues last month, just before the Songkran new year holiday, when many Thais travel across the country to celebrate with their families. Following record daily increases last week, tighter measures were introduced from Sunday, including the closure of schools for two weeks. Bars have been shut, restaurants banned from serving alcohol and the opening hours of shopping malls have been reduced in areas such as Bangkok.

Prof Anucha Apisarnthanarak, chief of the infectious diseases division at Thammasat University, said patients in the current wave, which involves the more transmissible strain first recorded in the UK, were presenting with different symptoms, including rashes and red eyes. Based on conversations with doctors, it appeared that about 40% of patients with symptoms developed pneumonia while in hospital – a much greater proportion than in previous waves.

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