5-star hotels in Bangkok are being repurposed as hospital rooms for the wealthy as COVID-19 cases in Thailand rise

Bangkok thailand
  • At least 23 five-star hotels in Bangkok have been turned into luxury “hospitels,” per the South China Morning Post.
  • People who test positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms can pay up to $385 to stay in one of these hotels instead of a public hospital.
  • COVID-19 cases in Thailand are on the rise, and Bangkok is at the epicenter of the country’s latest wave.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

At least 23 five-star hotels in Bangkok are being used as extensions of the city’s private hospitals as COVID-19 cases rise in Thailand, per the South China Morning Post.

The luxury quarantine in these “hospitels” is available for people who have tested positive for COVID-19, do not have symptoms or underlying health conditions, and can afford to pay for their stay, the Post reports. A stay in one of these hotels can cost as much as $384 a night. Patients at Thailand’s public hospitals can receive treatment free of charge.

At $384 a night, a 14-night stay could cost more than $5,000. In Thailand, the average monthly salary comes out to about $470, meaning the luxury of obtaining space in one of these hotel-hospitals is far out of reach for the average worker.

The 23 participating hotels add a collective 4,900 beds to Bangkok’s hospital bed capacity.

The office for Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health did not immediately reply to Insider’s request for comment regarding how many “hospitel” rooms have been booked across all 23 hotels and which other hotels are participating in the program.

A third coronavirus wave and a shortage of hospital beds

After keeping its coronavirus situation largely under control throughout most of the pandemic, Thailand started seeing an uptick in cases in early April. To date, Thailand has recorded 71,925 cases and 276 COVID-19 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. On May 4, it recorded 31 deaths, a new daily record for the country.

Thailand currently requires every person who tests positive for COVID-19 to be hospitalized. Bangkok has been at the epicenter of the country’s latest COVID-19 outbreak, prompting the government to warn that hospitals may run out of beds for patients.

On April 10, officials announced they would be planning to install 10,000 field hospital beds in Bangkok. Photos show what some of those look like; pictured below is a field hospital built in a sports stadium.

Thailand field hospital covid bangkok
A field hospital in Bangkok. LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / Contributor / Getty Images

In another field hospital at the Bangkok Arena, 400 cardboard beds have been set up in anticipation of hospitals exceeding their patient capacity, per Getty Images photos.

The country is lagging behind in its vaccine rollout. According to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker, Thailand has only administered 1.5 million doses, accounting for about 1.1% of its total population.

The role of hotels during the pandemic

Hotels have been used as ancillary spaces at several points during the pandemic.

In March 2020, when New York City was the epicenter of the global COVID-19 outbreak, the city’s officials turned to some empty hotels to house non-critical patients and hospital staff. In April 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that Barcelona hotelier Maraya Perinat opened up three of her hotels – where rooms ordinarily went for $450 a night – to house COVID-19 patients who had mild symptoms or were unable to quarantine in their homes.

The use of hotels as additional hospital space for the rich or privileged has in some cases also laid bare societal inequalities.

In late April in Delhi, India, as the city battled a crippling and ongoing coronavirus wave, authorities ordered one luxury hotel to be converted into a coronavirus facility exclusively for high court judges and their families, according to Reuters.