Thai alcohol ban to curb coronavirus now spans 16 million people

People line up inside a liquor shop in Bangkok, on April 9, 2020.
People line up inside a liquor shop in Bangkok, on April 9, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS
A photo taken on March 17, 2020, shows the go-go bars street Soi Cowboy in Bangkok.
A photo taken on March 17, 2020, shows the go-go bars street Soi Cowboy in Bangkok.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Bangkok became the latest province in Thailand to temporarily ban alcohol sales in an effort to prevent social gatherings that can spread the novel coronavirus.

The restriction from April 10 to April 20 is the metropolitan region's latest effort to contain a surge in infections since early March.

Alcohol is now proscribed for about 16 million people, as several others among the nation's 77 provinces have already imposed curbs. Thailand as a whole is under a state of emergency and partial lockdown through April.

"We ask that all of you cooperate," Mr Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, a spokesman for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, said in a briefing Thursday (April 9). "We're about to gain control over the spread of the virus."

People on Thursday (April 9) queued to buy wine, beer and spirits following the announcement.

At supermarkets in downtown Bangkok, shoppers wearing facial masks crowded in to the alcohol section.

“I don’t know how long the ban will take, so I bought a lot just in case it extended,” said 39-year-old Tanawat Ruenbanterng, who bought 30 bottles of beer.

Thailand has confirmed 2,423 coronavirus cases, with 32 fatalities. More than half the cases have been in Bangkok, where a mobile testing system is being rolled out.

Officials are trying to entrench social distancing to beat the pathogen that causes Covid-19, with roughly a quarter of Thailand's 69 million people under alcohol prohibitions.

 
 
 

Even before the outbreak, majority-Buddhist Thailand imposed relatively strict rules that block sales of beer, wine and spirits during specific hours.

The government reported 54 additional novel coronavirus infections Thursday, among the smallest daily increases in recent weeks, taking the total to 2,423. Just over half the cases are in the capital.

The administration postponed a traditional New Year holiday - known as Songkran - due April 13 to April 15 until later in the year, but some people may still seek to celebrate.

Thai Beverage Pcl is the largest seller of alcoholic beverages in Thailand, with its array of spirit brands holding almost 80 per cent of the domestic market, according to a report by Bloomberg Intelligence.

The company's share of the smaller beer market was 42 per cent in 2018, while closely held Boon Rawd Brewery Co, best known for its Singha and Leo brands, had a 51 per cent share.