A Covid-19 patient looks down from the balcony of her room March 26, 2020 at the Thammasat University Field Hospital for Covid-19.

PATHUM THANI — Dorms at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on Thursday became the first operational temporary quarantine for coronavirus patients, welcoming two Thais who tested positive today.

As infection numbers are rising steadily in Thailand and straining hospital resources, major public hospitals have agreed to start sending patients with mild symptoms to self-isolate at dorms and hotels instead – the first of which is the Dluxx (pronounced ‘deluxe’) dorm building in northern Bangkok. It can accommodate up to 308 patients.

The man and woman who were transported to the dorm Thursday morning appeared to be in good health. They waved to the media from their eighth-floor balconies and held up the Victory sign. The front of the building now has a canvas sign that says “Thammasat University Field Hospital for Covid-19.”

Other private firms have offered their space to become field hospitals or quarantine facilities, including Punjadara Hotel in Korat and Bonanza Khao Yai Hotel.

The Centara Hotels and Resorts Group, a conglomerate that owns 42 hotels nationwide, also announced that they would be on standby to offer quarantine rooms for at-risk travellers to isolate.

Some other hotels have taken the opportunity to offer “quarantine packages” – The Idle Residence is offering a 14-day stay package that includes meals and a Netflix subscription for 35,000 baht.

A professor at the university’s Faculty of Medicine, Chatchai Mingmalairak, on Wednesday posted photos of smiling staff at Thammasat’s converted dorms. “Day 1 of the Thammasat Field Hospital. We’re ready!” he wrote.

Another Covid-19 waves from his balcony.

Chatchai wrote that he had been appointed as director of the field hospital. He said that the increasing number of Covid-19 patients are straining the resources of hospitals, especially university hospitals. About 80 percent of patients only have mild symptoms, the physician added.

“Only 20 percent have severe symptoms and must be admitted to the hospital. But at this point, there are so many admitted patients that they prevent new patients from being admitted,” Chatchai wrote. “If this situation goes on, it could result in decreased treatment quality, and even more deaths.”

Therefore, the Chulalongkorn, Siriraj, Ramathibodi, Vajira, and Thammasat hospitals agreed to send Covid-19 patients who have received five to seven days of treatment, shown improvement, and only displayed mild symptoms for quarantine outside their facilities.

Dluxx is a dorm building with 14 stories and 308 rooms with an in-suite bathroom and balcony. Wastewater will be treated with hospital standards. Medical staff will watch patients for symptoms and communicate via telecom, and will put on protective suits when interacting with patients.

Medical staff watch patients via CCTV cameras.

If they test negative after 14 days, the patients will be released. If symptoms worsen, they will be sent back to the hospital.

Mental health professionals and social workers will also be on-call.

“The patients must be quarantined for a long time, which may affect their emotional well-being. We will also take care of the families worrying at home,” Chatchai wrote.

Rooms include air-conditioning and Wi-Fi. Meals will be delivered thrice daily, and patients can wash and dry their own clothes on the balcony.

“Although it’s hard, scary work for most people, but we have so many doctors and nurses volunteering and sacrificing for the greater good,” Chatchai said. “This shows the Thammasat spirit we share. Let’s get through this tough crisis together.”

A coronavirus patient arrives at the Thammasat University Field Hospital for Covid-19.
A Covid-19 patient holds up a victory sign.
The Thammasat University Field Hospital for Covid-19.
An introductory video about the Thammasat University Field Hospital for Covid-19.