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‘It’s Like a Lockdown’: Thailand Eyes Travel, Business Hours Limits as Covid Fight Gets Desperate

Thailand 3rd Stage Reopen Chiang Mai Bus Station
Passengers purchase tickets and wait for coaches at Chiang Mai's Arcade Bus Station as Thailand lifted many restrictions on interprovincial travel. Those restrictions are set to return under a new proposal from the CCSA.

More than a third of Thailand will go into quasi-lockdown Monday under a proposal being put before Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to the country’s coronavirus task force.

“It’s like a lockdown, but we’re not using that word,” Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration spokesman Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin said his Saturday morning news briefing.

“Level 1” of the proposal, initially envisioned to run from 6 a.m. Jan. 4 to 6 a.m. on Feb. 1, would discourage all non-essential interprovincial travel, encourage working from home, put schools online, close additional “high-risk” businesses and limit hours of those allowed to remain open, such as shopping malls. Dine-in service at restaurants would be banned.

While Chonburi, Bangkok, Samut Sakhon and a handful of other provinces already are in line with Level 1 closures of public venues and meeting spots, restrictions would be new for almost 20 other provinces only designated “highly controlled areas” on Saturday.

If coronavirus case numbers continue to rise, a set of “Level 2” restrictions would come into effect which would include hard travel restrictions on “vulnerable groups”, even tighter controls on what businesses would be allowed to remain open and possibly a national curfew.

The new proposals – along with reclassification of 28 provinces into the “highly-controlled” red zone areas – came after yet another 216 new Covid-19 were confirmed in the past 24 hours, 182 Thais, 32 migrant workers and two imported cases.

The CCSA also reported another death, a 47-year old diabetic Thai woman living in Chonburi who had visited an underground casino in Banglamung District and tested positive for the virus on Dec. 30. She was said to be asymptomatic when admitted to a field hospital at the Grand Bella Hotel in Pattaya, but Covid-19 was still listed as her cause of death.

Thailand’s total cases stand at 7,379 with 4,299 recoveries and 64 deaths.

Of today’s 182 new local cases, Samut Sakhon and Chonburi recorded the most with 37 and 32 cases, respectively. Rayong followed with 27, then Nonthaburi (25), Samut Prakan (23), Bangkok (18) and Chanthaburi (10).

The rest were found in Pathum Thani (2), Nakhon Pathom (2), Ang Thong (2) and one each in Chai Nat, Ratchaburi, Ayutthaya, and Suphan Buri.

The CCSA’s Taweesin said the meteoric rises in cases, combined with widespread New Year’s holiday travel, increasingly are making it impossible to do effective contact tracing, which, he said, is essential to “break the chain” of infections.

While the Rayong and Samut Sakhon clusters have cooled, they still are producing new connected cases. But many new cases elsewhere in the country cannot be traced, he said.

Unlike earlier in the pandemic, Thais are not following proper safety standards. Many are not self-quarantining after coming into contact with infected people, continue to engaged in potential “superspreader” activities, such as visiting illegal casinos, and not wearing masks as often as they should.

If the public doesn’t have the willpower to do what it should the government is then forced to take extreme actions to control the outbreak, Taweesin said.