Thailand has decided to introduce new set of curbs amidst fresh wave of COVID-19 infections jeopardising its plans to reopen borders to international tourists. A recent meeting of the National Committee on Communicable Diseases has decided that the closure of bars, pubs, massage and karaoke parlours in most areas including Bangkok, the epicentre of the latest outbreak, is likely to be extended across the nation until the end of April.
The country is also set to close schools and amusement parks and place a ban on sale of alcoholic beverages in restaurants for two weeks to stop the spread of the fresh outbreak of the coronavirus disease that has spread to most of the country. The panel also mentioned that while Bangkok and 17 other provinces will be designated as maximum controlled areas because of the severity of the outbreak, 59 others will be designated as controlled areas.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha is also set to chair a meeting of the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration to consider the fresh curbs. However, the government has ruled out a national lockdown with Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul informing that each province in the country will be free to decide on any travel restrictions according to their own choice. He mentioned that the spread of the deadly virus can be contained within two weeks if people complied with the new curbs.
Last week the Southeast Asian nation had ordered the closure of entertainment venues in Bangkok and 40 other virus-hit provinces for at least two weeks to contain a third wave of infections that emerged from bars and pubs in the capital city. The latest control measures affected the annual Songkran celebrations and Thai New Year festivities when millions of resident’s travel across the country for family reunions and holidays. The cancellation of major Songkran celebrations and vacations for a second year weakened private consumption and domestic tourism.
Moreover, the extended period of restrictions and latest measures may delay the plans to welcome vaccinated tourists as decided by authorities earlier and further weaken the economic recovery that the Thai central bank reported as being highly dependent on the return of foreign visitors. On Thursday, Thailand reported a record 1,543 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total number of coronavirus infections to 37,453 approximately. The new wave, which started early this month, has spread across 70 provinces and infected more than 8,500 people, some of them with a more contagious variant first found in the U.K.
By Joe Cusmano