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Record number of Covid cases as prison clusters grows

Thailand has seen its highest number of daily cases, with the majority of the new cases stemming from the country’s overcrowded prisons.

Some 6,853 prisoners make up for 9,635 of Monday’s new cases – more than double the previous daily record.

Thailand admitted there were growing clusters in jails after several prominent activists tested positive.

The country has managed to keep virus number low for the last year, but saw a huge spike in cases last month.

A total of 111,082 cases have been reported since the beginning of the pandemic. The previous highest daily total was 4,887 on 13 May, according to Johns Hopkins University.

It also reported 25 new deaths on Monday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 614.

“Many people warned the Thai authorities that they needed to act proactively to avoid such a situation, but it seems they got caught sleeping at the switch,” said Human Rights Watch’s Asia director in a statement released earlier this month.

‘At grave risk’

The Ministry of Justice had earlier last week said that the majority of the country’s cases stemmed from two prisons in Bangkok.

However, they said these two prisons were “different” from other facilities as they had to constantly accept new inmates.

The scale of the prison outbreak was only revealed last week when prominent activists reportedly tested positive after being released from jail.

According to a report by news agency AFP, only 10 cases were reported in Bangkok Remand Prison on 25 April. This figure jumped to 1,794 last week.

Human Rights Watch says there are some 380,000 inmates in overcrowded prisons across the country, adding that there were all “at grave risk from Covid-19 outbreaks”.

It called on Thai authorities to “ensure prisoners and detainees have access to adequate protective measures”, as well as to “swiftly reduce overcrowding by releasing people who do not pose a serious and concrete risk to others.”

The quarantine period for new prisoners has now been increased to 21 days and testing has been ramped up.

The latest outbreak comes days after Thailand announced plans to allow restaurants to resume dine-in services in Bangkok, though an official added that this would be capped at 25%. However, entertainment venues still remain closed and malls nationwide close at 21:00 local time.

Thailand has so far administered 2.2 million vaccine doses to frontline workers and those in at-risk groups.

Before the current outbreak largely appeared to have kept Covid-19 in check, recording a low death toll for a nation of 70 million people that shares porous borders with four countries, including Myanmar.

BBC

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