BANGKOK • Bangkok's nightlife went quiet yesterday as a ban on bars, nightclubs and restaurant alcohol sales took effect, among a raft of restrictions aimed at curbing the country's rising corona-virus toll.
Thailand initially appeared to have escaped the worst of the virus, registering just under 4,000 total cases in November, despite becoming the second country to detect an infection early last year.
But an outbreak last month at a massive seafood market has spiralled into a resurgence, with infections now detected in 53 of the country's 77 provinces. The caseload jumped to over 7,300 yesterday.
In Bangkok, where more than 2,600 active cases have been detected, city authorities acted swiftly and announced a partial lockdown to go into effect. Bars and nightclubs, boxing stadiums, cockfighting rings and massage parlours - as well as beauty salons and gyms - will be among a slew of businesses affected.
The capital announced on Friday that public schools would close for two weeks, while more than a dozen virus checkpoints were set up yesterday across the city.
"We don't want to use extreme measures like a lockdown and putting up a curfew, but we need a stronger medicine to prevent the new surge," said Mr Taweesin Visanuyothin, a spokesman for Thailand's Covid-19 task force.
Nationwide restrictions and closures are expected from Jan 4 to Feb 1, he added, allowing a two-day "grace period" for business owners to prepare.
The authorities, worried about inciting alarm nationwide, had been reluctant to classify the new emergence of the virus as a "second wave".
But anger resounded across Thai social media yesterday over the renewed restrictions, with business owners expressing frustration with the partial lockdown.
"I comply with the measures strictly, yet I now need to close my business while there are many people scrambling on the skytrain every day," spa owner Aksika Chantarawinji wrote on the official Facebook page of Bangkok's governor.
The partial lockdown also comes during a period of relative calm in Bangkok, following months of demonstrations that drew thousands to the streets to demand government overhaul and royal reform.
The latest event organised by the pro-democracy movement was last Thursday, during which activists sold seafood to aid embattled shrimp vendors after the market outbreak.
Police tried to shut down the event and more than a dozen organisers - affiliated with "We Volunteer", a group that provides security for the activists - were arrested and charged with breaking coronavirus rules. Released on bail yesterday evening, they were greeted with cheers from supporters waiting outside the court.