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After Waffling, Prayut Locks Down Pattaya, 5 Covid-19 ‘Red Zone’ Provinces

Non-essential interprovincial travel banned; Koh Si Chang closed, U-Tapao airport suspends commercial flights

Pattaya, along with Chonburi and four other provinces, is now under hard lockdown, with government permission required to leave the area.
Pattaya, along with Chonburi and four other provinces, is now under hard lockdown, with government permission required to leave the area. (Photo: Bangkok Herald)

After days of waffling, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday signed off on a lockdown on five of Thailand’s hardest-hit coronavirus hotspots, prohibiting anyone from traveling in or out of , Chonburi, Rayong, Chanthaburi, Trat and Samut Sakhon without government approval.

It was only yesterday that Prayut reportedly put the kibosh on the plan outlined Sunday by the kingdom’s deputy health minister. With 365 new cases reported today – and more than 1,000 set to be reported officially Thursday – it didn’t take long for the former general to surrender.

The final order requires those wishing to leave the targeted provinces must present identification and a travel certificate issued a local or national governmental agency stating the trip is essential. It also gives authorities the power to stop and inspect every vehicle headed in and out of the “red zones”.

Those violating the order are subject to fines of up to 40,000 baht.

The external lockdown order comes as Chonburi shut down access to popular resort island Koh Si Chang and U-Tapao-Rayong-Pattaya Airport announced it was suspending commercial operations until at least the end of January. The Thai passport office in Pattaya also closed until further notice.

Chonburi Gov. Phakhathorn Thienchai signed the order closing Koh Si Chang virus-ravaged Sri Racha District until Jan. 19 with locals required to undergo thorough health screenings before returning home.

Chonburi added 30 new cases and recorded another death on Wednesday. The new figures will be added in the nationwide tally of the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration on Thursday.

Sri Racha leads the province’s districts with 21 infections while the death was reported in Banglamung District, which includes Pattaya.

U-Tapao’s announcement affects scheduled, commercial domestic flights operated by Thai AirAsia, Bangkok Airways, and Thai Lion Air to destinations like Phuket and Chiang Mai.

The move became necessary in light of the new interprovincial trael order, as the airport sits on the Rayong-Chonburi border. Charter repatriation, cargo and military flights will continue as normal at the Royal Thai Navy-operation airport.