Thailand reports record number of Covid-19 cases for fourth day

Thai health authorities said they were stepping up efforts to secure more vaccines to fight the latest outbreak. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thailand reported on Monday (July 19) 11,784 new Covid-19 cases, the fourth consecutive day of record infections, as the country struggles to tackle its worst outbreak to date.

The South-east Asian nation's Covid-19 task force also announced 81 new deaths, bringing total fatalities to 3,422 and with 415,170 cases registered.

The Thai health authorities said they were stepping up efforts to secure more vaccines to fight the latest outbreak, with a deal for 20 million doses of Pfizer vaccines to be concluded on Monday and an order for 50 million more doses under consideration, said the director-general of the Department of Disease Control Opas Karnkawinpong.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul also plans to seek approval from the country's Covid-19 task force to temporarily regulate the export amount of locally manufactured AstraZeneca vaccines as a way to shore up Covid-19 vaccine supplies, but he gave no details about quotas, several local media reported.

Thailand has been producing the AstraZeneca vaccine since last month and is slated to export it to several other countries in South-east Asia as well as Taiwan.

When the idea was earlier raised by the government, AstraZeneca said the Thai production facility "is of critical importance" to the region and the company is working with the Thai and other governments to "continue to deliver equitable vaccine access to the region".

Thailand's vaccine roll-out, which has depended on the Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines, began in June. So far about 5 per cent of the country's 66 million population have been vaccinated with two doses.

The Thai government on Sunday announced plans for a tighter lockdown in Bangkok and high-risk provinces, suspending most domestic flights and expanding curfew areas.

Domestic flights to and from Bangkok and other provinces classified by the Thai government as at high risk from Covid-19 will be suspended from Wednesday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand said in an announcement.

Exceptions are being made for medical flights, emergency landing aircraft and flights in connection with the government's tourism reopening programs, while other local flights can only fly at 50 per cent capacity, the announcement said.

Tougher measures designed to keep people in high risk areas mostly at home will be introduced from Tuesday, said General Nattapon Nakpanich, the chief of National Security Council, but supermarkets, banks, hospitals and medical clinics will still be allowed to open.

Shopping malls will be closed and a 9pm-4am curfew will be imposed from Tuesday in Chonburi, Ayutthaya and Chachoengsao provinces, an announcement on the official Royal Gazette on Sunday showed.

Bangkok and nine other provinces have already been under these restrictions, the toughest in more than a year, since last Monday, as the country battles its longest-running and most severe outbreak so far.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.