The emergency decree will pave the way for government orders such as imposing curfews, prohibiting travels and evacuations.
“The order to invoke all the laws will be by the Prime Minister. The Covid Centre will be upgraded to the Covid Emergency Centre,” Mr Prayut told a press briefing at Government House after the weekly cabinet meeting.
“We’re asking for your cooperation not to return to your home towns,” he added, referring to the mass exodus of migrant workers from Bangkok last week after various businesses in the capital and five adjacent provinces were ordered shut.
Among the venues in Bangkok ordered closed until April 12 are schools, universities, malls, markets, dine-in restaurants, salons, spas, gyms, massage parlours, theme parks, sports venues, conference halls, cinemas and theatres. Supermarkets, fresh food markets and restaurants offering takeaway food are exempted from the closure.
Following Mr Prayut’s announcement, concerns have been raised about the possibility of the decree being used to crack down on dissidents.
"This decree allows the government to issue orders that may widely violate people’s rights and freedom which may exceed the necessary level required to handle the virus outbreak," said the anti-junta Democracy Restoration Group in a statement.
Thailand reported a spike in Covid-19 cases since last week - with 106 new cases on Tuesday (March 24). Many infections emerged from outbreaks at boxing rings and nightclubs in Bangkok.
Three more Thai nationals died, according to the Health Ministry on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to four.