While the government is upbeat about its Phuket reopening scheme, health personnel in Greater Bangkok are struggling to deal with a surge of new Covid-19 infections and deaths.
Hospitals are experiencing a shortage of intensive care unit (ICU) beds and staff to take care of patients in serious condition. The Public Health Ministry has mobilised 144 newly-graduated doctors from several provinces to help take care of patients amid the shortage of medical personnel in Bangkok. A welcoming event was organised on Thursday for the doctors who specialise in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, infectious diseases and critical care medicine.
"I would like to say sorry [for calling you to come] and thank you for your help," said Thongchai Kiratihatthayakon, deputy permanent secretary for public health, during the ceremony. "Now, Bangkok and the surrounding provinces are in a real crisis, patients are beginning to die at home.
"We do not want Thailand to be the same as Europe last year when many patients were allowed to die at home because there were no beds at hospitals," he said.
"Some of you might think why it has to be you [to be sent]," Dr Thongchai said. "It is because we really want your help, and your rectors see that you are the best. Now [the outbreak] is not manageable, that's why we want you all."
Siriraj Hospital, Ramathibodi Hospital, Vajira Hospital, Thammasat University Hospital, and the field hospital at Mongkutwattana Hospital have shortages of ICU beds for patients with severe symptoms, and they plan to increase the number of beds.
In light of this, more medical personnel are needed to look after patients, Dr Thongchai said.
"In our life, we have never experienced something like World War II but we are now in a war where all countries around the world are struggling to fight against this disease," he said.
"You are our strength."
He said this is the first time the Public Health Ministry has had to mobilise doctors for a special purpose.
"If we do not do this, many people will be left to die in their homes," he said. "In Thailand, this should not be so, we should not be forced to choose which patient will survive and which one will be left to die."
The graduate doctors have been vaccinated against Covid-19, and they will receive remuneration and allowances according to ministerial regulations, he said.
A record 57 deaths and 5,533 new cases were reported across the kingdom over the past 24 hours, the Public Health Ministry said on Thursday.
The second-highest daily toll was 53 on Wednesday, when the country logged 4,786 new infections.
Of the cases reported on Thursday, 99%, or 5,489, were among the public while 44 were among prison inmates.
Bangkok had the most fatalities with 34, while Samut Prakan reported nine, Pathum Thani three, Nakhon Pathom and Nakhon Nayok two each, and one each in Chiang Rai, Chaiyaphum, Songkhla, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Samut Sakhon and Suphan Buri.
Meanwhile, Apisamai Srirangson, assistant spokeswoman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said an exodus of workers from closed construction sites in Bangkok has led to an increase in infections detected in 32 provinces.
"This prompts provinces to issue strict orders for local people and officials to be on the highest alert," she said. "People are not prohibited from returning home, but they must act responsibly towards their relatives."