Thailand expands Covid-19 lockdown zone, says measures could last until end August

The restrictions, including travel curbs, mall closures and curfews, will be expanded to 29 provinces.
The restrictions, including travel curbs, mall closures and curfews, will be expanded to 29 provinces.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK - Lockdown measures in Bangkok and other high-risk zones will be extended for two more weeks, and more provinces will also come under the new curbs, as Covid-19 cases in Thailand surge. 

Provinces under the dark red zone, meaning those under stricter virus measures that include a night curfew, a ban on dine-in services, and curbs on inter-provincial travel, will be increased from 13 to 29, said the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) after an emergency meeting on Sunday (Aug 1). 

The Covid-19 taskforce, which is chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, met to evaluate the current measures and discuss the virus situation. In recent days, the number of infections and deaths have hit daily records. 

The CCSA said the slew of measures will start on Tuesday (Aug 3) and will be evaluated after two weeks - with the possibility they will last until the end of August. 

There was also one rule change announced for provinces in the dark red zone where restaurants in malls will be allowed to provide delivery services. Previously they could not operate. 

Thailand is facing its worst Covid-19 wave to date, which started in April and has not abated. 

On Sunday, the country reported 18,027 new infections, with 133 deaths, bringing the total to 597,287 cases and 4,857 deaths. 

Since early July, Bangkok and nine other provinces have been under lockdown measures such as a 9pm to 4am curfew, a ban on gatherings of more than five people and the closure of most businesses in shopping malls. These rules were later extended to three more provinces, and were due to end on Aug 2. 

The latest provinces that will be added to the dark red zone include those in the central and southern regions, including Nakhon Nayok, Lopburi and Ang Thong. 

As a result of increasing infections nationwide, Phuket and Phang Nga which had opened their doors to vaccinated tourists, will not allow domestic travellers to enter from Aug 3 to 16. 

Healthcare services are also stretched, and earlier this week authorities said that hospitals in Bangkok and the surrounding provinces were running out of capacity due to the surge in infections. 

Meanwhile on Sunday, dozens of “car mobs” broke out across Bangkok and other provinces, where people took to the roads in cars and motorcycles as a form of protest while maintaining social distancing and minimising the risk of Covid-19 infection.

In Bangkok, anti-government protesters drove around the city, sounding their horns to signal their objection to the government’s handling of the pandemic and calling for the resignation of Mr Prayut.