A shortage of oxygen used for treating Covid-19 patients is becoming an increasing problem that is being worsened by the smuggling of oxygen tanks into Myanmar, a leading health official has said.
Director-General of the Medical Services Department Somsak Akksilp voiced his concerns yesterday at a press conference at the Public Health Ministry where he added the oxygen shortage has stalled plans to better equip several hospitals with oxygen tanks.
"It is our plan to seek more beds for near critical patients in the capital but due to the current oxygen tank shortage, we can't do it right now. Many of them have been smuggled to Myanmar," he said.
Dr Somsak said he was highly concerned over the oxygen shortage after he had received reports that many oxygen tanks had been sold illegally and smuggled across the border into Myanmar.
He said not having these oxygen tanks is placing the department in difficulty in assisting more Covid-19 patients who need oxygen support in Bangkok and its vicinity.
Dr Somsak said there are around 20,000 beds in Bangkok hospitals of which 10% could be used by patients who need oxygen support.
Currently, the government has been implementing lockdown measures aimed at limiting people's mobility in a bid to help suppress the virus.
"But so far there are still so many cars on the roads," Dr Somsak said.
"To help reduce the number of new cases of Covid-19, we want to see people joining hands together to stop unnecessary travelling," he said.
He said medical officials cannot work alone in fighting against the disease as they are now quite weak after fighting against it for more than a year.
Dr Somsak also backed the home use of Covid-19 rapid antigen test kits for self-testing.
He said that it's clear that any Covid-19 positive people who match the criteria for home isolation and use a rapid antigen test don't need to have the test reconfirmed with a Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test. But they must register with the National Health Security Office for tele-medicine consultation.
But he said that a reconfirming test done via RT-PCR is needed for a patient who has an antigen rapid test and has to stay in community isolation to be assured they don't have the virus.
Dr Somsak said this is needed because rapid antigen tests miss 3-5% of positive cases.