Correction: An earlier version of this article quoted health officials saying 71,860 people have been tested for the coronavirus. In fact, they refer to the number of samples, not people. We regret the error.
BANGKOK — Approximately 70,000 samples have been tested for coronavirus in Thailand so far, health officials said on Tuesday, the same day they reported one more fatality claimed by the virus.
The reported total test number, if true, would place Thailand above Cambodia and Japan on the scale of cases tested per population, though the kingdom still falls behind other countries like South Korea, Singapore, and Italy. A government spokesman acknowledged the figure is nowhere near satisfactory.
“We’re not satisfied with this number. We need to pump those numbers up, both the private and public sectors,” Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration said. “We want to test hundreds of thousands of people. With more tests, we might find more infected, but we’re not afraid of that.”
At today’s news conference, Taweesin said a total of 71,860 samples have undergone COVID-19 tests in Thailand. The number does not necessarily equal to 71,860 people having been tested, as some patients may take the coronavirus test twice or more.
He also said a total of 20,000 tests can be conducted nationwide per day. Half of them can be performed at 38 hospitals in Bangkok, while the other half can be performed at 39 hospitals in the provinces.
“Our test capacity is not only limited to the availability of test kits, but also our manpower and instruments,” Taweesin said. “Therefore, there are many limitations and we will fix them soon.”
However, Sirima Teerasak, director of the Bureau of Information at the Ministry of Public Health, gave a much higher figure. She said by phone that around “70,000 to 80,000 people” in Thailand have been tested, though Sirima did not cite any source.
The official figure reported by Taweesin translates to 1,029 tests per 1 million people, which is ahead of Cambodia’s 345 tests per million and Japan’s 365. But it remains far behind South Korea (8,996), Singapore (11,110), and Italy (11,937).
Former deputy PM Surapong Suebwonglee wrote on his Facebook page that Thailand’s relatively low number of tests were due to a lack of data integration between hospitals, availability of laboratories, and strict criteria for those who are eligible for the test.
Many hospitals insist on providing tests for those who show symptoms, known as patients under investigations, or PUIs.
According to data released Monday by the Department of Disease Control, there are 25,857 PUIs since the outbreak began in early January.
Confirmed infections fall again
Health officials today also reported an additional confirmed infection of 38 cases, the lowest in weeks. Thailand now has 2,258 total confirmed infections, and 27 fatalities, while 824 people have recovered, according to Taweesin.
The latest fatality was a 54-year-old man without pre-existing conditions, though he is linked to a Thonglor social gathering on March 13 where at least 12 people have contracted the coronavirus.
Taweesin attributed the lower number to the emergency degree and curfew which forces Thais to stay inside from 10pm to 4am starting Thursday.
“We’re not going to be happy that we just got 38 one day. Just one super spreader in one Asian country was able to spread a lot,” Taweesin said. “In muay Thai terms, our guard can’t be down.”
Additional reporting Tappanai Boonbandit