Coronavirus: Thailand announces nationwide curfew starting Friday

A water cannon sprays down streets in Phuket, on April 1, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK - Thailand will go under a nationwide nighttime curfew from Friday (April 3), in the latest measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Announcing the move in a televised address on Thursday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said: "We all need to adapt to survive and be responsible to society so that we can overcome this crisis. However, to increase the effectiveness of the effort to control the spread and reduce commutes, I am issuing a curfew order nationwide.

"Please don't panic and hoard goods because you can come out to buy them in the daytime as usual."

The curfew will run from 10 pm to 4 am and violators could face up to 2 years in prison and a fine of up 40,000 baht (S$1,738), according to a written order signed by Mr Prayut. Transport of goods, fuel, medicines and medical supplies, and the movement of patients and medical personnel are exempt from the ban.

Thailand declared a state of emergency on March 26 which will last until the end of April, with a possibility of extension.

The curfew order is the latest in a series of restrictions announced by each province and agency, including non-mandatory curfews imposed by four provinces, closures of various businesses and venues in most parts of the country, a mask requirement on public transportation, and travel restrictions to and from some provinces.

These have gradually been instituted since mid-March, when the number of new confirmed cases of Covid-19 began to spike daily.

On Wednesday, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration had mandated a closure of Bangkok's parks and imposed a nighttime curfew on all shops, including convenience stores and supermarkets, from midnight to 5 am, effective until the end of April.

The government has also ordered a slowdown in inbound travel, including Thais returning from abroad, and recommended that citizens postpone travel, in light of continued new infections from abroad.

Already, entry has been barred to all foreign tourists since March 26 except those with working permits or belong to diplomatic missions. All travellers, both Thai and non-Thai, need to present a "Fit to Fly" health certificate upon departure. Foreigners are also required to have health insurance coverage of at least US$100,000.

With the new measure in place, Thais wishing to go home will now need to seek letters from Thai embassies to confirm their nationality.

Saying the measures implemented so far could help curb the spread to some extent but were still "insufficient and only passive," Dr Thiravat Hemachudha, chief of Chulalongkorn University's Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases, said Thailand should look to China as an example for strict lockdown measures.

"When the curfew and closure orders are lifted, new infections could re-emerge and continue like a loop. Then, we don't know how long we will have to live like this," Dr Thiravat said.

"The curfew still allows people to go out and commute during the day time. Instead, they need to be at home."

Thailand now has a total of 1,875 confirmed cases and 15 deaths across 62 provinces of the total of 77. Nearly half the cases - 895 - are in the nation's capital.

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