Thai Epidemiologist Warns Delta Variant Could Push COVID Deaths Up By Hundreds in July

Thai epidemiologist Kamnuan Ungchoosak warned that the Delta variant of the coronavirus could push deaths in July up to 1,400, up hundreds in comparison to June's 992 deaths, the Associated Press reported.

Kamnuan said 80 percent of the deaths are elderly or people with chronic diseases, and if they had been vaccinated it would reduce the death rate while lowering demand for ICU beds.

Outbreaks are occurring among other groups as well, including constructions workers and restaurant workers, who still need to be vaccinated, he said.

"We currently have closed the camps and businesses, but the number of cases is not declining and the economy is bad. But if we focus on old people and those who have chronic diseases, we might not have to shut down the businesses and the bed demands from these two groups will also decline," he said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Thailand Expecting Increase in COVID-19 Deaths
This photo taken on June 29, 2021 shows health workers administering doses of the Covid-19 coronavirus AstraZeneca vaccine to elderly residents at a sports stadium in Phuket, days before the Phuket Sandbox tourism scheme that allows visits by vaccinated people is set to launch on July 1. Lillian Suwanrumpha/Getty Images

Health authorities in Thailand reported 6,087 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, setting a record for a second straight day, as concerns mounted over shortages of treatment facilities and vaccine supplies.

Officials also reported 61 deaths on Friday, bringing the total to 2,141.

Around 90 percent of Thailand's 270,921 reported coronavirus cases and 95 percent of the deaths have been recorded during a surge that began in early April. There were 992 deaths in June, more than 15 times Thailand's total for all of 2020.

The number of patients in ICUs and on ventilators has risen nationwide over the past two weeks.

The government's Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration said 39 percent of the new cases reported Friday were in Bangkok, 25 percent in neighboring provinces and 36 percent in the other 71 provinces. Center deputy spokesperson Apisamai Srirangsan said Bangkok authorities must urgently set up isolation stations to separate infected people in their local communities and add beds for treatment of serious cases.

Critics since the beginning of the year have charged that the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has failed to secure timely and adequate vaccine supplies, and efforts to obtain more have proceeded slowly.

Experts at a Health Ministry briefing on Friday painted a grim picture of how to prioritize who gets vaccinated.

Prime Minister Prayuth has targeted mid-October for opening up the country to vaccinated visitors from abroad without quarantines.

Sopon Mekthon, chairman of the government's subcommittee on COVID-19 vaccine management, said only 2 million of about 16 million old and infirm people have received vaccines.

Nakorn Premsri, director of the National Vaccine Institute, said a Thai company, Siam BioScience, was supposed to provide the country with 10 million doses a month of locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine, but that has been cut to 5-6 million doses. The company, owned by Thailand's king, reportedly has had production problems. It also has contracts to provide vaccines to other countries.

He said Thailand is trying to negotiate with other producers to fill the gap. So far, Thailand has only used vaccines from AstraZeneca and China's Sinovac and Sinopharm, although the government says it has agreements to also buy from Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

Thailand Expects Hundreds More COVID-19 Deaths
This photo taken on June 29, 2021 shows health workers administering doses of the Covid-19 coronavirus AstraZeneca vaccine to elderly residents at a sports stadium in Phuket, days before the Phuket Sandbox tourism scheme that allows visits by vaccinated people is set to launch on July 1. Lillian Suwanrumpha/Getty Images