Public Health Minister and Deputy PM Anutin Charnvirakul appears to have gotten his way, and bars and entertainment venues in Bangkok are rattled today, after the government announced a mandatory closure over the Covid-19 coronavirus. The move comes a day after the announcement that Songkran festivities nationwide are postponed to as-yet undecided dates.
The planned steps come as new cases nearly tripled in a single week to reach 147. Thirty-three new infections were reported yesterday, breaking Sunday’s record of 32. Thirty more were confirmed today. One person in Thailand has died of complications arising from the illness.
Deputy government spokeswoman Ratchada Thanadirek said on her Twitter account that the cabinet was expected today to approve closures of all universities, public and private schools, boxing arenas, cockfighting arenas theaters, bars and other entertainment venues in Metropolitan Bangkok.
Cockfighting is legal and extremely popular in Thailand.
Metropolitian Bangkok includes Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon. It does B include Pattaya or Phuket, this is not a country wide closure, but limited to areas where clusters have been found or suspected. Earlier, Ratchada said that closures of entertainment venues elsewhere in the country would be at the discretion of the provincial governors.
The temporary closure will be from March 18 to 31.
In a press conference today, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha emphasised that this not a “lockdown” and stressed that the use of this word is highly incorrect, as people remain free to move around, only that areas where large numbers of people tend to gather in Bangkok would be shut. Malls and Restaurants are not affected by the order but need to ensure they are following proper hygiene and precautionary standards and limiting large gatherings.
The Government stressed the country remains at Stage 2, that there is not widespread public transmission and that these measures are temporary. The order also prohibits general mass gatherings, including religious activities.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam says restaurants will “probably be allowed” to remain open, but only if they take precautions against coronavirus contagion such as social distancing, and that two clusters of infections, linked to a bar and a crowded boxing stadium, showed the need to limit public gatherings. He recommended that government employees work from home wherever possible.
“In this situation, prevention and treatment are the number one priorities. We have to prioritize people’s lives over tourism and economic impacts. We don’t know how tough the upcoming battle will be.”
Some businesses have already taken the initiative, temporarily shutting their doors as customer numbers have dwindled. The owner a bar in one of Bangkok’s busiest nightlife districts closed it down for the first time in over 40 years. She says closed it due to a lack of customers over coronavirus fears.
“I think it’s not worth it to stay open. Even if the government hadn’t ordered it, we ought to close ourselves.”
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Thai Immigration seek visa relief for stranded foreigners
Thailand’s Immigration Chief Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang, is seeking cabinet approval for new measures to help foreigners in Thailand affected by the Covid-19 crisis. The proposal will be submitted to the cabinet for approval this week, he said.
Cabinet meets each Tuesday.
The proposals follow a difficult week for foreigners and immigration officials coping with long queues of panicking visitors trying to sort out their visas in a very non-social distancing environment. Long queues and frustrated tourists have been the norm at immigration offices around Thailand is recent weeks.
The measures will focus on three groups of foreigners…
- Foreigners with resident visas who normally reside in Thailand but cannot return due to the Covid-19 crisis
- Foreign tourists who are unable to depart Thailand due to the crisis
- Visitors from neighbouring countries who hold a temporary border pass and got stuck in Thailand after the borders were shut
Foreigners in the first group are typically required to return to Thailand within a year of their departure, however since they can not fly at this time, immigration will propose extending their compulsory deadline until after the pandemic subsides.
The extension of the return period would not affect any immigration rights and benefits they usually receive when strictly following the one-year return period requirement though they are advised to return to Thailand as soon as possible after the crisis concludes.
Foreigners who have been unable to leave and have reported to immigration authorities for a 30-day extension after their visas expired on March 26 or thereafter; their visas will be automatically renewed every 30 days until the pandemic subsides.
Under the government’s social distancing policy, these tourists will no longer have to visit the immigration bureau if the policy is adopted, which would eliminate the risk of contracting the virus in a crowd, Pol Lt Gen Sompong said.
This proposed measure, however, does not apply to those foreigners who are working and or have family in Thailand. They will still be required to report to immigration authorities regularly.
Foreigners from neighbouring countries will be allowed to stay in Thailand until the borders are re-opened. They will be required to leave Thailand within seven days after the borders reopen.
Other foreigners who are now in Thailand and affected by the Covid-19 crisis, but aren’t covered in the above three categories are advised to adhere to the usual laws.
SOURCE: Chang Rai TimesKeep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
UPDATE: Ban on arriving flights lifts at midnight tonight
The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand’s three day flight arrival ban will end at midnight tonight. The ban on all aircraft from entering Thailand for three days came into effect when some 152 returning Thai nationals landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Friday evening and refused quarantine orders, saying they had not been informed of the requirement and demanding to return to their homes.
Chaos followed and eventually the presiding army officer, (who has since been recalled), allowed them to leave the premises to self-quarantine at home.
The CAAT issued the order a few hours after the Friday incident. The order, signed by CAAT director-general Chula Sukmanop cites Sections 27 and 28 of the Air Navigation Act to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus and to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.
According to the order, all aircraft carrying passengers were prohibited from entering Thailand with the exceptions of state or military aircraft, emergency landings, humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights, repatriation flights and cargo aircraft.
The order is effective until midnight tonight and stipulates that all passengers who embarked before the order came into must be follow restrictions regarding communicable disease prevention and must be held in quarantine for no less than 14 days.
SOURCE: The NationKeep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
Prachuap Khiri Khan locks down ‘until further notice’
The Prachuap Khiri Khan municipality, 240 kilometres south of Bangkok, has locked down the province from April 3 to combat the spread of the Coronavirus Covid-19, ” with immediate effect until further notice”. The announcement includes Prachuap Khiri Khan’s main seaside town Hua Hin.
The announcement, included on the Thailand Tourism Authority website, says there are now screening measures at all points of entry and exit to the province.
- Screening measures at the points of entry and exit. Any person deemed at risk will be isolated and transferred to a designated hospital for quarantine or treatment.
- Strict enforcement of restrictions on gatherings.
- Closure of all types of hotels and similar establishments, which have permits according to the Hotel Act 2004, with the exception of hotels designated as hospitals and emergency venues. Hotels currently occupied, which are to be closed after the last guests have checked out, must report the details of all guests to the local authorities. Any guest deemed at risk will be isolated and transferred to a designated hospital for quarantine or treatment.
- All residents must wear surgery or cloth masks when leaving their residence.
- All incoming boats are banned from docking in the province, except for emergency reasons. Fishing boats must receive a permit from the local district head.
SOURCE: TATKeep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.
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