Thailand lifts ban on cockfighting as Covid-19 outbreak eases, approves Johnson & Johnson's vaccine

Janssen is the third vaccine to be cleared for local use in Thailand.
Janssen is the third vaccine to be cleared for local use in Thailand.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Thailand lifted a ban on cockfighting competitions, once seen as major sources of Covid-19 clusters, as the authorities continued to roll back restrictions imposed to contain the biggest coronavirus wave to hit the nation.

Cockfighting arenas can reopen with spectators, allowing the popular sport to resume their games and trades, after a group of gamecock breeders met Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha on Thursday (March 25).

Crowded cockfighting rings and gambling houses were among Thailand's virus hot spots earlier this year, with hundreds of cases traced back to them.

The ban came as these venues were seen as a major risk as they brought many people together in tight quarters over an extended period of time, usually without face masks and with lots of talking and shouting - ideal conditions for the coronavirus to thrive.

Thailand has eased most of the restrictions on businesses and travel after stemming a flare-up in infections that sent the nation Covid-19 cases soaring to more than 28,000 from under 5,000 in mid-December.

The tourism-reliant nation is also set to ease quarantine rules for foreign visitors from next month as it pushes to revive the economy from the worst contraction in more than two decades.

The government will continue to gradually relax control measures as it consider the health of the economy and people as equally important, Mr Prayuth told reporters.

Meanwhile, Thailand has granted emergency authorisation to Janssen, the single-dose coronavirus vaccine of Johnson & Johnson, the country's health minister said on Thursday, the third vaccine to be cleared for local use.

Mr Anutin Charnvirankul told reporters the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved the vaccine, in addition to those of AstraZeneca and Sinovac Biotech, which have already been administered in the country.

J&J's vaccine is called Covid Vaccine Janssen after the J&J unit that developed it.

China's Sinopharm and the makers of Russia's Sputnik V are preparing to submit requests for approval, Dr Paisal Dunkhum, the head of Thailand's FDA said.

Moderna has said it would submit an application for approval, while India's Bharat Biotech is in the process submitting documents for vaccine registration, Dr Paisal said.

Thailand, which has recorded just over 28,000 coronavirus cases overall, has administered about 100,000 doses of vaccines among medical workers and high-risk groups so far.

Its main vaccine drive is expected to start in June, using locally produced AstraZeneca shots and it plans to inoculate half of its adult population by the end of the year.