Thai health workers use canals to get to distant COVID-19 patients


SAMUT PRAKAN, Thailand, July 19 (Reuters) – Two Thai health workers close their protective suits, put on masks and face shields and slowly board a small boat waiting in the reeds on the banks of a canal the country.

This is the best way to ensure that isolated communities in Samut Prakan, a province on the outskirts of the capital Bangkok, have access to tests as the country struggles to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Workers navigate these small canals daily, performing community checks and nose and throat swab tests on self-isolating COVID-19 patients in an already isolated village.

“Some areas of the village are not accessible by land, so we have to travel by boat or raft to check for COVID-19 patients,” said Charoenrat Chaibut, public health official.

About 10% of the 60 households in the village were infected with COVID-19, estimates the health authority.

Thailand reported 11,784 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the fourth consecutive day of record infections, as it faces its longest and most severe outbreak to date.

Local people help by providing transport – a narrow wooden boat with a small engine and propeller

“I do this for the patients because it is quite difficult to travel and I am happy that the locals welcome us,” said Charoenrat.

Although they are able to reach patients at the moment, Charoenrat fears the virus will continue to spread even in these remote areas.

“I am worried that we do not have enough health workers to take care of the patients,” she said. “The number of cases and those awaiting recovery is increasing.”

Written by Jiraporn Kuhakan and Martin Petty Editing by Paul Simao

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