BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand ordered the closure of entertainment venues, including pubs and bars, in some areas of the nation's capital for two weeks to stem the spread of Covid-19 infections ahead of the Thai New Year holiday next week.
A total of 196 night-entertainment venues spread over three districts in the capital city will remain closed from Tuesday (April 6) through April 19, Bangkok Governor Asawin Kwanmuang said at a briefing on Monday. The shutdown may be extended if the outbreak doesn't ease in two weeks, he said.
Thailand reported 194 cases on Monday, a quarter of which were detected in Bangkok with most of the transmissions traced to the clubs. These new virus clusters are a repeat of outbreaks last year, when a high rate of infections were found among patrons and workers of bars and entertainment centres.
Thailand has lifted most of its strictest containment measures after an outbreak wave that started in December eased. The fresh curbs come ahead of the peak travel and celebration period, known locally as the Songkran Festival. Countries ranging from France to India and the Philippines have also tightened measures to curb recent spikes.
"The situation has reached a critical level, with a 48 per cent positivity rate from these nightclub clusters," Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said. The authorities have found 163 cases from the Bangkok clusters with about 720 people still awaiting result of virus tests, according to officials.
A large movement of people and festivities during the holiday will lead to more infections, Professor Yong Poovorawan, chief of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University, posted on Facebook.
Prof Yong said Thailand's low vaccination rate makes the situation "worrying", and "there are chances of a third or fourth wave of outbreaks".
Thailand's benchmark SET Index fell 1 per cent in Bangkok, as the gauge of tourism and leisure companies declined 2.5 per cent. Minor International, the nation's biggest hotel operator, slumped 3.9 per cent and Central Plaza Hotel slid 3.5 per cent.
Separately on Monday, Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said the Health Ministry will propose that all restaurants, bars and nightclubs in Bangkok and four surrounding provinces be closed daily at 9pm and those venues cannot sell alcoholic beverages. These proposals, which will be effective for two weeks, will be submitted to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration's sub-committee on April 7.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration decided to move fast considering the gravity of the outbreak, Mr Asawin said. The city administration also plans to prioritise some of its vaccines for residents and workers in a district that's popular for night-time entertainment, he said.
So far, more than 240,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Thailand, with about 42,000 people fully vaccinated.