Authorities in Chiang Mai admit they are greatly concerned following a spike in COVID-19 infections that are now passing 200 every day.
On Tuesday, an additional 260 COVID-19 cases were reported in Chiang Mai, taking the total number of infections there to 1,260 since the epidemic arrived early last year.
Despite Chiang Mai’s situation proving to be a constant concern along with other provinces around the country also considered “high risk”, the Department of Disease Control (DDC) insists no nationwide lockdown will be imposed because other provinces are not affected.
Dr Chatuchai Maneerat, Chiang Mai’s public health chief, said if the daily caseload in the northern province continues to exceed 200 infections, hospitals would run out of capacity to handle them.
More than 600 people have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak started early this month and about 200 have been admitted for medical care, he said.
“Currently we have 1,000 beds in the province’s field hospital and that may not be sufficient,” he added. “So the province’s communicable disease control panel has decided to add another 1,000 beds.”
Chiang Mai governor Charoenrit Sa-nguansat, said another field hospital was underway and further preparations would be needed to cope with the possible increase in infections.
The field hospital at Chiang Mai University can add another 300 beds while at least 120 beds can be arranged at the territorial defence student training school, he said.
Mr Sa-nguansat said the private sector had donated 500 so-called cardboard beds and he urged the public to donate mattresses via the Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Centre.
The number of people seeking COVID-19 tests remains high after timelines of confirmed cases showed the patients using public transport and visiting various venues.
Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital has asked patients to postpone appointments unless urgent, and seek medical advice through video-call services due to limited medical resources.
Dr Bannakij Lojanawpiwat, dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, said 11 faculty staff had contracted the virus and those who had come into close contact with them were under a 14-day quarantine.
In Phitsanulok, authorities have identified 500 people as “high risk” and advised them to undergo COVID-19 testing at Naresuan University Hospital on Tuesday and today.
Provincial governor Ronnachai Jitwiset admitted the situation was worrying and a field hospital had been set up at Buddhachinnaraj Hospital, Bueng Kaeng Yai branch, to treat those with mild symptoms.
He said a plan was being drawn up so district and community hospitals could accept mild cases.
Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the DDC, said no nationwide lockdown was being considered and he urged the public, especially students, to avoid social gatherings at least until the end of this month to curb the spread of the virus.
“People are asking if there will be a lockdown. I’d say that a lockdown is the last resort if virus transmissions show no signs of letting up,” he said.
A general work-from-home policy is expected to lower the infection rate to 400 per day and a “targeted lockdown” can push the number lower to 100 cases per day, he said.
He said there had been no sharp increase in infections over the past three days but he asked for people to continue to cooperate by social distancing and avoiding unnecessary travel.
Bangkok and Chiang Mai remained a matter of concern with many new daily infections.
“The infections are scattered in Bangkok and surrounding provinces and major provinces with special events like Prachuap Khiri Khan where a concert was organised,” he said.
Of 2,626 recent infections linked to entertainment venues, most are customers, said Dr Karnkawinpong.
“Activities that draw large crowds pose the greatest risk and should be avoided until the end of this month at least,” he said.