Thailand bans New Year gatherings to contain virus outbreak
BANGKOK – Thailand imposed a ban on Wednesday on large gatherings and events across the country in an effort to contain its worst coronavirus epidemic yet during New Year, with active cases in over half of its provinces.
Authorities have asked the public to avoid travel and have imposed tighter control measures in some areas, including entertainment businesses. Targeted lockdowns have been imposed in some provincial districts.
The health ministry confirmed 250 new infections on Wednesday, among the largest number of confirmed daily cases since a big outbreak found nearly two weeks ago that was the country’s largest yet.
“Today’s figures made me nervous… what we don’t want to see is a second or third lockdown,” COVID-19 taskforce spokesman Taweesin Wisanuyothin told a briefing.
“If the situation can’t be controlled, rather than count down to the New Year, we may count up (the number of cases).”
Taweesin on Tuesday said more aggressive restrictions like those seen earlier in the year may need to be imposed if the spread is not contained.
Those measures, which included closures of malls, restaurants and entertainment areas and restrictions on international travel, caused the tourism-reliant economy to contract the most in 22 years in the second quarter.
New clusters have emerged in the wake of a big outbreak this month at a seafood market near Bangkok, among mainly migrant workers from Myanmar, with cases since reported in 48 provinces.
Though low in comparison to many countries, the sharp increase in Thailand’s daily cases is a setback for its efforts to keep the virus at bay, having recorded just 6,690 infections and 61 deaths overall.
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