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COVID-19 cases surge in Thailand amid vaccine delays

COVID-19 cases surge in Thailand amid vaccine delays
A Thai man undergoes a COVID-19 swab test in Bangkok on Friday as restrictions take a toll on local businesses. Photo by Rungroj Yongrit/EPA-EFE

July 9 (UPI) -- Anger is growing in Thailand as the number of COVID-19 infections grows at an unprecedented pace amid a slow and politicized vaccine rollout and preferential treatment of different kinds of businesses.

Thailand has reported nearly 90% of COVID-19 cases have occurred since April. Almost 95% of COVID-19 related deaths were reported in the last few months, Deutsche Welle reported. Late Friday, the country reported 9,276 new cases.

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Access to COVID-19 testing is being delayed and residents of Bangkok are being forced to wait for hours in line before they find out whether they have been infected.

Bangkok residents told South Korean network KBS that they were waiting in line since 8 p.m. Friday, but authorities said they would not be "assigned a number" for a test until 6 a.m. the next day. Some residents were undergoing testing after outbreaks at their workplace, the report said.

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Vaccine rollout has been slow in Thailand, following trends in other parts of Asia, where tough and sometimes draconian responses have drawn praise for keeping the number of infections relatively low.

Public indignation is rising after a leaked Thai health ministry document showed the government directing health workers to receive only one shot of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, which makes the inoculation less effective.

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The government document reportedly said an additional shot would be equivalent to "admitting that [China's] Sinovac vaccine is not effective." Revelations of the document in the country led to the Thai-language hashtag "Give Pfizer to medical workers" trending online, according to Deutsche Welle.

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Thailand also has banned dine-in services, but is allowing indoor shopping malls to stay open, drawing outcry from some businesses.

"This doesn't make much sense to me," said Thanapong Vongchinsri, an owner of a chain of buffet restaurants.

Thailand reopened the island of Phuket to foreign visitors July 1, but concerns are rising after two people tested positive for the virus, Channel News Asia reported Wednesday.

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One of the individuals was a traveler from the United Arab Emirates, the report said.

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