Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, said Bangkok, with the highest number of cases, has only 69 empty ICU beds left out of a total of more than 400. He said that is enough for the next six to eight days according to the projected demand of 10-13 additional ICU beds per day. Nationwide demand, forecast at 52 ICU beds per day, would use up the capacity in 19 days, he said.
Under Thai law, infected patients must be held in hospital facilities, but even with the addition of field hospitals there are not enough beds. There are 19,873 people in hospitals and field facilities nationwide, but in some areas that are short of beds, infected people are isolating at home.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
— India is putting oxygen tankers on special express trains as major hospitals in New Delhi begged on social media for more supplies to save COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe. More than a dozen people died when an oxygen-fed fire ripped through a coronavirus ward in a populous western state. India’s underfunded health system is tattering as the world’s worst coronavirus surge wears out the nation, which set another global record in daily infections for a second straight day with 332,730. The situation was worsening by the day with hospitals taking to social media pleading with the government to replenish their oxygen supplies and threatening to stop fresh admissions of patients. The government has started running Oxygen Express trains with tankers.
— Japan announced a third state of emergency for Tokyo and three western urban prefectures amid skepticism it will be enough to curb a rapid coronavirus resurgence ahead of the Olympics in July. The emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and its two western neighbors Kyoto and Hyogo will last from April 25 through mid-May. It is largely intended as a short, intensive step to stop people from traveling and spreading the virus during Japan’s “Golden Week” holidays. But experts and local leaders have said tougher measures are needed in the face of the rapidly spreading virus, limited vaccinations and public fatigue.
— The Australian west coast city of Perth will lock down for three days after a returned traveler was apparently infected with the coronavirus while in hotel quarantine. Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan said on Friday masks will also become compulsory in the city of 2 million people for three days from midnight. “I know this is hard to take and I wish we didn’t need to be doing this. But we can’t take any chances with the virus, we just can’t,” McGowan told reporters. The cause of concern was a 54-year-old man who arrived in Perth on April 3 on a flight from China and went into mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine. A couple from India on the same floor of the hotel were infected with a virus variant identified in that country as more contagious. The variant spread to a mother and daughter from Britain who shared a room across a corridor.
— Cambodia’s Health Ministry announced on Friday a record daily increase of 655 COVID-19 cases, bringing the country’s total to 8,848. Two new deaths were also reported, raising the total to 61. The authorities have linked more than 90% of the cases to a community outbreak in February, when a foreigner snuck out of quarantine in a hotel in Phnom Penh to go to a nightclub. Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered a strict two-week stay-at-home lockdown in the capital starting April 15, barring residents from venturing out except for food and other necessities at locations authorized by the government. There is also an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in the city. “We are facing an impending disaster and we will die unless we act responsibly and be united,” Hun Sen said last week on social media. Security forces have been tightly enforcing the restrictions. Police earlier this week equipped themselves with wooden rods to beat violators, but discarded them after Interior Minister Sar Kheng told them to use persuasion rather than force. The army is helping distribute food to poor families whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the lockdown.
— China says three of its citizens working in the United Arab Emirates tampered with the results of their coronavirus tests required to return home. The Chinese Embassy said the three, working in Dubai, altered information provided by local clinics to state they had not been infected. It said they were referred to UAE authorities for “seriously interfering with the prevention of epidemics and posing a significant risk to the health and safety of other passengers on the same flight.” China has largely stamped out domestic infection but continues to report citizens arriving from abroad who test positive for the coronavirus. China reported 19 new virus cases on Friday, all of them brought from overseas.
— A Norwegian climber has become the first to test positive for COVID-19 at Mount Everest’s base camp. Erlend Ness said he was confirmed infected and flown to Kathmandu. A mountain guide warned that the virus could spread among the hundreds of other climbers, guides and helpers who are now camped at the base of Everest if all of them are not checked immediately. He says any outbreak could prematurely end the climbing season ahead of a window of good weather in May.
— Authorities in Sri Lanka have imposed lockdowns on several villages and postponed the reopening of state universities amid a sharp increase of COVID-19 cases. The government said a small town and a village in the Kurunegala district, about 100 kilometers northeast of Colombo, were placed on lockdown. The local Lankadeepa newspaper reported five other villages in the area have been isolated. Separately, the Education Ministry said the reopening of state-run universities will be postponed by another two weeks based on instructions from the health department. They had been scheduled to reopen April 27 after several months of being closed. The number of positive cases rose to 672 on Thursday, pushing the nation’s total to 98,721 people infected with 634 fatalities.