Thailand: Covid patients shipped out of Bangkok and into regions amid hospital pressures

Covid patients are shipped out of Bangkok amid rising hospital numbers

People testing positive for Covid-19 in Bangkok are being transported back to their hometowns, to ease pressure on the Thai capital's overwhelmed hospitals.

Rather than await treatment in one of the city's hospitals - currently short of both normal beds and beds in ICU - patients are being moved to doctors in their home provinces.

A train carrying more than 100 patients and medical workers left the city on Tuesday, bound for seven different provinces where patients will be met by health officers and taken to hospitals.

Covid patients board a train out of Bangkok. Credit: AP

Buses, vans and even aircraft could soon be deployed to join the effort.

"These patients are from Bangkok who haven't received treatment in hospitals," said Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.

"We want to bring them to doctors in their hometown.

"The traveling process is controlled all through the journey."

Mr Charnvirakul said Thai authorities would continue until all patients without a bed had been moved.

The situation in Bangkok has deteriorated to the point army medics have been called in to support in public hospitals.

Thailand initially kept coronavirus cases in check but outbreaks have flared in recent months.

Volunteers deliver oxygen to a patient on the floor of her home. Credit: AP

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's government is facing harsh criticism over its handling of a Delta variant-fuelled surge and a slow vaccination programme.

There have been reports of people dying in the streets, or in their homes, while waiting for treatment.

Why are Bangkok's hospitals overrun?

Medical authorities in Bangkok said on Monday all ICU beds for Covid-19 patients at public hospitals were full and that some of the sick were being treated in emergency rooms.

Of the nearly 500,000 total confirmed cases and more than 4,000 fatalities, 137,263 cases and 2,176 deaths have been in Bangkok.

Nearly 80% of Bangkok's 4,451 beds for Covid patients are occupied by people with mild or no symptoms.

Hospitals are beginning to adjust by urging such patients to agree to isolate at home or in community isolation centres.

The number of beds for people with moderate symptoms is due to be quadrupled and the number of intensive care units to increase to 80 from just 60 now, the government's Center for Covid-19 Administration said.

Coronavirus: What you need to know