Bangkok authorities on Monday night shut down massage parlors, nightclubs and sports venues, limiting pubs to offering anything only food until at least Jan. 4 as Thailand recorded its first death from the new coronavirus outbreak.
In a late afternoon news conference, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration spokesman Pongsakorn Kwanmuang said Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang said all entertainment venues must close by midnight starting Tuesday and announced restrictions that will force the closure of nightclubs, music venues and go-go bars.
A press release from the city quoted Pongsakorn as saying the order would have “minimal impact” on pubs as “they can adjust their business model to only offer food”.
Establishments subject to the order are defined by the Service Places Act of 1966 and includes businesses where music is performed, instruments are arranged for customer use, services allowing customers to sing or have employees sit with customers, offers dancing or offering dance shows, light shows, food and liquor.
Entertainment businesses already have begun to respond. The Nana Plaza red-light zone will close its go-go bars from Dec. 29-Jan. 4. Its front bars, inner beer bars and a beer garden in the center of the complex will remain open.
The shutdown order also covers Bangkok’s many massage parlors as well as racetracks, cockfighting rings, bull fights and fish-fighting venues.
Alcohol is not banned and pubs that enforce strict social distancing and offer food will be allowed to continue to serve. Clarification about what alcohol-only bars can and can’t offer should be available soon, but, as usual, may be up to district police to determine what they will allow, or how much in bribes it will owners for cops to look the other way.
While Bangkok already had canceled official New Year’s Eve celebrations and encouraged private businesses to do the same, the order appears to put the final nail in the entertainment industry’s new year’s coffin, as some bars had advertised plans to carry on with parties despite the official discouragement.
It should be noted that bars, under the existing Emergency Decree, already were required to close at midnight. However, for the past several months, police had been allowing pubs and bars to operate until 2 a.m. with late-night discos going until 5 a.m.
After the new coronavirus outbreak exploded out of Samut Sakhon, police began ratcheting down restrictions, raiding popular nightclub Insanity, ordering all foreign and Thai pubs in Thonglor to shut down by midnight and stepping up inspections at Sukhumvit nightspots.
Pongsakorn said the order will be rescinded after it expires Jan. 4 if the outbreak subsides, but, if Thailand’s second wave continues to build, even stricter lockdown measures could be issued. Right now, there’s no indication the new wave is going to die out any time soon.
Thailand recorded its 61st Covid-19 fatality and the first of the new wave today. Around 5 p.m., Deputy Public Health Minister Satit Pituthecha announced that a 45-year-old employee at the illegal gambling den in Rayong Province succumbed to the virus. He was said to have both asthma and diabetes, hastening his demise.
He never even made it to a hospital before expiring, dying in an ambulance.
After first claiming there were no underground casinos in Rayong and then that the “gambling den” was a family gathering, Rayong’s police chief was removed from his position Monday.
National police chief Pol. Gen. Suwat Jangyodsuk said it was, indeed, a casino housed in a freight warehouse and had been operating for a month under the nose of Pol. Maj. Gen. Papatdet Ketpan. Suwat asserted it was not the only one.
In his interview with a local radio station, Noppadol Tangsongcharoen, chairman of Rayong Chamber of Commerce, said that most people in Rayong know about the presence of illegal gambling dens in the province, with the exception of the police and those who “dare not speak the truth”.
Pol. Maj. Gen. Mana Inpitak, deputy commissioner of Provincial Police Region 2, was named acting chief.
Samut Sakhon & other hotspots
Thailand’s other hotspot, Samut Sakhon, continued to headlines, as well as cases as Gov. Weerasak Wijitsaengsri tested positive for the virus.
Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said Monday two tests confirmed his infection. He had been at the front lines of the new outbreak and was at high risk for infection.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and executives of the Public Health Ministry had visited Samut Sakhon and met the governor Sunday for about an hour. Masks were worn.
However, Anutin will be in home quarantine for 14 days.
Police Chief Suwat also said that a police officer in Samut Sakhon contracted Covid-19. He also arranged for health insurance for about 1,000 officers in the province.
Thailand today recorded 144 new Covid-19 cases, 115 of which were locally acquired by Thais. Only 14 migrant workers in Samut Sakhon tested positive while 15 others arrived from overseas and tested positive in quarantine, Taweesin said.
The coronavirus now has spread to 43 provinces this month. Cumulative infections in Thailand, to date, are 6,285, with 4,180 recoveries. The CCSA said 2,045 others are still being treated in hospitals.
Among the 115 locally acquired cases, 41 are related to Samut Sakhon, 23 to the illegal gambling cluster in Rayong, and 49 are under investigation. Two were in Bangkok.
Chanthaburi on Monday night announced it was province number 44 to be affected as Gov. Sutee Thongyam announced three people initially tested positive for Covid-19 with one of the three having visited the Rayong casino. Another three gamblers also were being tested.
In Krabi, a four-year-old girl tested positive at a kindergarten about 90 other people including students and kindergarten staff tested negative.
Nonthaburi tonight announced nine more cases, seven of which were migrant workers.