The Thai government has announced that it would convert the country’s main airport into a field hospital as part of health authorities’ efforts to control the crisis when daily COVID-19 infections and deaths rise sharply and the more contagious Delta variant spreads in the capital.
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob said the new field hospital would be in a recently completed terminal located within the Suvarnabhumi airport compound.
It is called “Satellite 1” or SAT-1 and will be adjusted next month to become a facility with at least 5,000 beds to serve COVID-19 patients. On the four-story building’s first floor, people who require moderate medical care will be accommodated, while the second floor will be used as an intensive care unit.
The third and fourth floors will reportedly accommodate patients who caught the virus but developed mild or no symptoms.
The new terminal complex, with 216,000 square meters of space, was built as part of a 62 billion baht (about $92 billion) development plan approved in 2011. But its opening was rescheduled to April 2022 due to material import delays caused by the pandemic coronavirus, the airport authority said.
However, the terminal’s structure is finished enough to serve as hospital accommodation for patients with mild to severe symptoms.
Previously, authorities had stated that they would ensure enough beds available to accommodate all “severely affected” COVID-19 infections during the third wave of the pandemic.
But the government continued receiving complaints from people claiming that they could not find hospital beds for themselves or their loved ones.
Some hospitals reportedly stopped conducting COVID-19 testing to avoid being forced to admit more patients, and others formed waiting lists with people camping outside their facility while awaiting beds and treatment.
Also, the proliferation of the Delta variant, which is more contagious and spreads faster than the original strain detected in Wuhan, has left many hospitals overwhelmed by the high rate of cases.
On Wednesday, health officials reported record numbers, with 6,519 new infections and 54 new coronavirus-related deaths. The Thai government expects the new airport facility helps the country deal with the recent COVID-19 outbreak.