Community isolation facilities have been set up in 23 communities in Bangkok to handle more than 1,200 Covid-19 patients with less severe symptoms who are waiting for hospital beds.
Meanwhile, the number of beds available at intensive care units (ICUs) at hospitals in Bangkok is nearing capacity as new coronavirus cases surged by more than 1,900 in the capital on Saturday.
If new cases top 2,000 a day in the capital, in a short time there will not be enough hospital beds for patients, health officials said.
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) reported on Saturday Bangkok again logged the most infections with 1,971, followed by 479 in Samut Prakan, 448 in Pathum Thani, 294 in Chon Buri, 277 in Samut Sakhon, 257 in Nonthaburi, 197 in Pattani, 172 in Songkhla, 169 in Nakhon Pathom and 159 in Yala.
The move to set up community isolation facilities is a collaboration of the National Health Security Office (NHSO), Piyavate Hospital and health networks. It is still unclear how the concept will affect freedom of movement, as details are still being worked out.
On Friday, the NHSO, the hospital, and networks held an online meeting to discuss the matter, according to the NHSO.
The meeting agreed the first step will be for leaders of the 23 communities to inform local Covid-teams from the Institute of HIV Research and Innovation (IHRI) about infected people in their localities.
If infections are confirmed, the information will be recorded and the patients referred to the hospital which will fix dates for lung X-rays.
The hospital will send mobile X-ray vehicles to examine them for signs of pneumonia, and the process will be repeated every three days. In communities where there are more infected people than the vehicles can handle, City Hall's public health service centre will be asked to send additional mobile X-ray units.
The process will also apply to patients under investigation, in addition to infected patients.
Community leaders and teams from the IHRI will work together to follow up and assess patients, provide preliminary care and three meals a day, and give them advice on how to cope with community isolation.
The hospital will make daily assessments and perform telehealth checks every three days.
Nimit Thian-udom, director of the Aids Access Foundation, said community isolation facilities started work on Friday. Community leaders will look for infected people or those at risk and will ask the hospital to send X-ray vehicles to communities.
Withit Atthawechakul, chief executive officer of Piyavate Hospital Public Company Limited, said the hospital is ready to work with communities. He praised the design of the care system.
He said some people who were previously tested for Covid-19 at private clinics will still have to undergo RT-PCR testing at the hospital. But if they get RT-PCR testing from state hospitals, they will then be admitted straight away without further testing.
NHSO secretary-general Jadej Thammatacharee said the NHSO will pay for all costs involved in the community isolation process, such as 1,000 baht for daily meals, RT-PCR testing costs, and thermometers.
Meanwhile, the CCSA on Saturday explained issues regarding Covid-19 vaccines and hospital beds for patients in Bangkok. Somsak Akksilp, director-general of Department of Medical Services, said the number of hospital beds for Covid-19 patients with severe symptoms in Bangkok is nearing a critical stage.
Efforts are being made to increase bed numbers, he said, while insisting home and community isolation will not be implemented unless necessary.
"However, if the daily number of new cases in Bangkok continues to surge to 2,000, the number of beds in ICUs in hospitals in the capital is expected to reach capacity in the next few weeks,'' Dr Somsak said.
''If case numbers can be lowered to 1,000 a day like in April and May, we will still be able to deal with the situation. Increasing bed numbers is not difficulty but looking for additional medical personnel is hard,'' Dr Somsak said. "Some medical staff have not returned home for two months. Transmissions also occur in hospitals,'' he said.
Sopon Iamsirithaworn, deputy director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said the Covid-19 situation is worrying as the Delta variant spreads so easily.