Thailand Reports Highest Number Of Daily Covid Deaths As Virus Tears Through Prisons


Thailand reported its highest number of Covid-19 deaths in a single day Tuesday as officials struggle to contain a third coronavirus wave ripping through overcrowded prisons.

The Southeast Asian country's justice minister said authorities are hoping to prioritize vaccinating more than 300,000 inmates and jail staff by diverting doses from the health ministry.

On Monday, Thailand reported 9,635 new coronavirus cases -- the highest number of new infections since the pandemic began, according to its Covid-19 task force (CCSA). Of those cases, 6,853 -- more than 70% -- were found in eight prisons and detention facilities across the country.

By Tuesday morning local time, 2,473 new Covid-19 cases had been confirmed, of which 680 were from prisons. Thailand also reported 35 related deaths nationwide on Tuesday, its highest number of daily fatalities, according to CCSA.

The new figures bring the country's total number of confirmed cases to 127,184, with 649 related deaths -- relatively small numbers compared to those in other parts of the world. Thailand has managed to keep overall cases low until the most recent outbreak emerged in early April from a Bangkok entertainment district before spreading to a slum area.

Thailand's prison clusters came to light when several pro-democracy protest leaders, accused of insulting the monarchy and held in pre-trial detention following popular demonstrations last year, announced they had tested positive for Covid-19 after being released on bail. Following the news, Thai authorities began mass testing the country's prison population.

Mass testing of overcrowded prisons

Justice minister Somsak Thepsutin said an investigation will be launched into how the virus has rapidly spread through the prison system and called for transparency in releasing the findings to the public. CNN cannot yet confirm when the prison cases first emerged but it is expected the number will continue to rise as more infections are confirmed.

According to Thailand's disease control department, nearly half of those tested in the jails so far were found to be infected with Covid-19. More than 24,000 inmates in eight prisons in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Chachoengsao, and Chiang Mai provinces were tested during the first two weeks of May and 10,748 inmates and prison staff were found to have Covid-19.

The majority of prison cases were found in the capital, Bangkok, but the worst-hit jail was in Chiang Mai province where just over 60% of inmates tested were found to have Covid-19, according to  government figures.