Thailand bans public gatherings as coronavirus cases and deaths hit daily records

The new cases bring the total number of infections to 391,989 cases and 3,240 fatalities since the start of the pandemic. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (REUTERS) -Thailand imposed a nation-wide ban on public gatherings and is considering more restrictions on movement as authorities reported record numbers of new cases and deaths on Saturday (July 17), despite partial lockdowns in Bangkok and nine other provinces this week.

The country's Covid-19 task force reported 10,082 new coronavirus cases and 141 new deaths, bringing the total number of infections to 391,989 cases and 3,240 fatalities since the pandemic started.

A ban on public gatherings has been imposed, with a maximum penalty of a two-year jail term or a fine of up to 40,000 baht (S$1,655) or both, an announcement on the official Royal Gazette published late on Friday showed.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said that the government is considering more restrictions as the country battles its worst coronavirus outbreak yet, fueled by the highly transmissible Alpha and Delta Covid-19 variants since early April.

"There is a need to expand measures to limit people's movement as much as possible and closing more facilities leaving only the essentials," Mr Prayuth said on his official Facebook page on Friday.

Since Monday, areas considered high risk in Thailand have been under the toughest restrictions in more than a year, with new curbs on movement and gatherings, the closure of malls and some businesses and curfews between 9pm to 4am.

"After assessing the measures there are still concerns," said Covid-19 task force spokesman Apisamai Srirangsan.

"We may close more places and intensify the measures," she said.

The government also plans to increase the number of Covid-19 tests, which currently cover 70,000-80,000 people per day, by introducing home-testing kits which will be available from drugstores next week, Ms Apisamai said.

Thailand on Friday reported 9,692 coronavirus infections and 67 new deaths.

The Thai Health Ministry this week also gave the go-ahead for home isolation of coronavirus patients with mild symptoms.

The Thai Red Cross on Friday said it had bought one million doses of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccines from the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO). The GPO is due to sign a deal next week to import five million doses of the Moderna vaccine that should arrive in Thailand sometime in the fourth quarter or the start of next year.

Thailand's main vaccine roll-out started last month and it has relied mainly on the AstraZeneca and Sinovac shots, though the pace of the roll-out has been slower than in some neighbouring countries. More than 5 per cent of its more than 66 million people have been fully vaccinated so far.

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