Mae Sot mulls field hospital as border crossings rise

Mae Sot mulls field hospital as border crossings rise

A field hospital may be opened in Mae Sot district if Covid-19 infections prove too much for the main local hospital to handle, said governor Pongrat Piromrat on Wednesday.

Tak, which borders Myanmar, is one of the established border trade channels. The Covid-19 outbreak has seen many people crossing illegally into Thailand to evade health checks and quarantine, raising fears of spikes in infections in the province.

The governor said the province has prepared a logistical and resources management plan to handle the Covid-19 patients. If there are more patients than Mae Sot Hospital can cope with, they will be referred to hospitals in the nearby districts of Phop Phra and Mae Ramat. In case the patients overwhelm the hospitals in those districts, Mae Sot Hospital will add 200 more beds.

If the infections continued to overstretch the hospital's handling capacity, the province would set up a field hospital, Mr Pongrat said, adding the province has found a site and construction can begin right away. Thongchai Keeratihatthayakorn, a deputy public health permanent secretary, was due to inspect the site proposed for the field hospital yesterday afternoon.

The governor's remarks came after 51 Thais yesterday returned from working in a casino in Myawaddy, a border town in Myanmar opposite Mae Sot district. Another 200 others are waiting to come back. The returnees were picked up by Thai authorities at the casino and crossed back over the border in military trucks, vans and pickups. They had contacted the officials to say they wanted to be returned home to escape the Covid-19 scourge.

When they arrived back, they underwent a swab test at Mae Sot Hospital. It was unclear what the result was although anyone tested positive for the virus would be admitted for treatment and people who turned out negative were placed in quarantine at a local facility.

Mr Pongrat said about 1,400 Thais are employed by border casinos in Myawaddy. At least 200 more Thais have asked for help to get home. Last week alone, 75 Thais crossed back legally and were tested. Fifty-two of them contracted Covid-19 and were being treated at Mae Sot Hospital. The rest were put in quarantine facilities in the district.

Meanwhile, the army has reviewed its border patrol plan in anticipation of an influx of illegal migrants after the government launched a registration drive of illegal workers to combat the spread of Covid-19. The review followed the Naresuan army task force's capture of six Myanmar nationals who tried to slip into the country in Ban Moker Thai of Phop Phra district yesterday.

Also, Third Army Region commander Lt Gen Apichet Susat dismissed allegations in social media that people have been helped to cross illegally into Myawaddy to gamble in the casinos there.

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