Thailand starts stricter COVID-19 shutdown as PM fined for not wearing face mask

Talking points

  • Health experts and public say new restrictions were too late
  • Prime Minister says plans to speed up vaccine procurement
  • Travel from India suspended

Bangkok: Thailand’s government slapped restrictions on travel from India on Monday over concerns of imported coronavirus cases and closed more venues in Bangkok, even as it came under fire for not doing enough to contain a spike in infections.

The government has introduced a fine of up to 20,000 baht ($817) for not wearing masks in public, with even the Prime Minister falling foul of mask-wearing rules.

A motorcyclist wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus in Bangkok.Credit:AP

It has also ordered parks, gyms, cinemas and day-care centres in its capital, the epicentre of the latest wave of infections, to shut from April 26 until May 9.

But unlike last year, malls and restaurants have been allowed to operate with earlier closing times, fuelling concerns this could quickly lead to more infection clusters and prompting calls for the resignation of the country’s health minister.

Comparing the government’s COVID-19 response to playing a game of Whac-A-Mole, Thira Woratanarat, a professor at Chulalongkorn University’s Preventive and Social Medicine, warned “shutting places and activities one at a time would not be enough”.

People should prepare for more clusters especially in work places, food courts and public transportation, he cautioned in a post on Facebook.

Thailand has managed to keep its caseload lower than many countries, but the latest outbreak has resulted in 57,508 infections and 148 deaths in just under 30 days. It reported 2048 new cases on Monday, of which 901 were in Bangkok.

PM fined for not wearing mask

The city of Bangkok fined Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha 6000 baht ($245) after he posted a photo of him not wearing a mask during a meeting.

“I informed the Prime Minister this was a violation of rules”, Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang wrote on his official Facebook page. The move came after a photograph of Prayuth appeared on his Facebook page showing him not wearing a mask in a meeting. The photograph was later removed.

The Prime Minister made an inquiry to city hall about the restrictions, which specify that masks should be worn at all times outside residences, prompting his fine, said Aswin.

The city of Bangkok fined PM Prayuth Chan-ocha 6000 baht for not wearing a mask during a meeting.

Thailand plans to procure more vaccines from several producers with a vaccination goal of 300,000 doses per day to inoculate at least 50 million people by end-2021, the prime minister posted.

Thailand has a population of about 66.1 million.

India travel curbs

Thailand will consider additional restrictions later this week, Apisamai Srirangsan, a spokeswoman for its coronavirus taskforce said at a briefing, after the country announced curbs on travel from India where infections have set a global record for a fifth straight day.

The Thai embassy in New Delhi said in a statement that certificates of entry for non-Thai nationals travelling from India will be suspended until further notice.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) denied reports that private jets carrying wealthy people from India were flying into Thailand.

“We confirm that no chartered flights from Indian millionaires have sought permission from the CAAT to come to Thailand,” it said in a statement over the weekend.

Reuters

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