Thailand imposes partial lockdown amid new COVID-19 outbreak

 Monday, January 4, 2021 


In light of the new wave of coronavirus cases, Thailand’s government empowered some provincial governors to set their own restrictions and urged the public to avoid unnecessary travel. Thailand was lauded worldwide for largely controlling the virus outbreak by mid-2020, but saw a second wave of outbreaks beginning in December. On Sunday, the country confirmed 315 new coronavirus cases, the majority of which are from local transmission, bringing its total to 7,694 cases and 64 deaths since its first case last January.

According to reports by Yong Poovorawan, a senior virologist from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand also reported its first known case of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus called B.1.1.7 on Sunday. The variant was found in a family of four who were in quarantine after arriving in Thailand from the U.K., and Yong said there is no risk of that variant being spread in Thailand. Opas Karnkawinpong, Director-General, Department of Disease Control said that Health Ministry has recommended the government to slow all flights from Britain until there is more information about the new strain.

Officials say the current domestic outbreak is linked to illegal border migration from neighbouring Myanmar. The government’s COVID-19 taskforce had earlier designated 28 provinces, including Bangkok, as high-risk zones and recommended suspension of some businesses and crowded activities in those areas that pose infection risks to the public. Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for Thailand’s COVID-19 taskforce said in a statement that the measures, that yet need final approval from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, will empower provincial governors to suspend businesses and other activities if there is a risk of infection.

Some ministries and agencies have already issued new restrictions in their areas. The Education Ministry has ordered all public and private schools and vocational training centres to close down from Monday until end of January. The Thai Retailers Association has also announced that all shopping malls around the country should close at 9PM daily, an hour earlier than the usual closing time. Authorities in Bangkok have also closed entertainment venues, nurseries, gyms and massage parlours, while keeping open shopping malls, restaurants and public parks earlier.

Bangkok’s nightlife is also likely to go quiet as a ban on bars, nightclubs and restaurant alcohol sales has been established among a raft of restrictions aimed at curbing the kingdom’s rising coronavirus toll. Taweesin Wisanuyothin added that the country does not wish to use extreme measures like a lockdown and putting up a curfew, needs a stronger medicine to prevent the new surge. According to reports, nationwide restrictions and closures are expected to go into effect from January 4 to February 1, allowing a two-day “grace period” for business owners to prepare.

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