BANGKOK - Thailand is extending the state of emergency for a month until May 31, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced on Tuesday (April 28), even as new coronavirus cases in the country have been on a decline for the past few weeks.
"The extension is necessary. Many orders especially in terms of movements will remain the same, while other restrictions will be eased," said Mr Prayut, referring to the existing lockdown measures.
"I don't want us to go back where we were if some measures are eased and there are more infections," he added.
The emergency decree, invoked on March 26 to give the government absolute power in issuing lockdown orders including the night time curfew to curb the spread of Covid-19, was to come to an end on April 30.
The night time curfew of between 10pm and 4am and inbound travel restrictions will remain in place.
The Cabinet however did not cancel the four public holidays in May - Labour Day on May 1, Coronation Day on May 4, Vesak Day on May 6 and Royal Ploughing Ceremony Day on May 11 - as speculated.
Thailand's traditional new year "Songkran", celebrated on April 13-15, was cancelled this year.
"The cabinet is however asking for people's cooperation in remaining home to curb the spread. Please refrain from travelling to other provinces and gathering or joining activities deemed at risk of infections," government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat told a press briefing.
Most parts of Thailand have been under a partial lockdown, with many malls, restaurants, and various entertainment and sports venues being ordered shut since mid-March.
It is not immediately clear which businesses and venues will be allowed to reopen in the near future, but Mr Prayut said a committee has been set up to study which activities could be allowed to resume, depending on their necessity.
The Prime Minister said the ease of the lockdown will be made in four phases, with each implemented at least 14 days apart.
Hundreds of people have been arrested each day for breaking the emergency decree, including violating the nighttime curfew and the ban on public gatherings. They face a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
"Please don't violate the emergency decree. It's what makes us safe until today," Mr Prayut said.
Thailand has not declared a state of emergency and imposed a nighttime curfew since the May 2014 coup led by Mr Prayut who was army chief at the time.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand on Monday announced an extension to the ban on all inbound commercial flights except for repatriation, cargo and emergency landings to May 31. Like the emergency decree, the ban, in place since early April, was to come to an end on April 30.
Thailand has reported a continual decline in the number of new Covid-19 cases since early April, following a spike in mid-March. There were seven new cases on Tuesday, and nine new cases on Monday. There have been a total of 2,938 infections and 54 deaths as of Tuesday.