Thailand's economic conditions tipped to worsen as coronavirus spreads

Thailand is set to impose a new set of restrictions on businesses and gatherings in 28 of its worst-affected provinces. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand's economic conditions are expected to deteriorate further this year as the nation battles a resurgence in the coronavirus, according to a national survey.

About 52.2 per cent of the respondents in the study undertaken by Bangkok-based National Institute of Development Administration predict the economy will be even worse in 2021 than it was last year, while 14.6 per cent anticipate an improvement.

At the same time, the impact of Covid-19 may be even more deadly than in 2020, according to 48.1 per cent of the respondents. Just 28.8 per cent expect it to be less severe, the institute said in a statement released on Sunday (Jan 3).

Thailand is set to impose a new set of restrictions on businesses and gatherings in 28 of its worst-affected provinces from Monday to stem the latest flare-up in an outbreak that's infected more than 3,000 people since the middle of December.

Bangkok, a city of more than 10 million people, has already closed businesses including pubs, bars, gyms and other entertainment venues besides shuttering schools until the end of the month.

The central bank at its December policy meeting said gross domestic product probably shrank by 6.6 per cent in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic. At the same gathering, it cut its forecast for this year to growth of 3.2 per cent, from an earlier estimate of 3.6 per cent.

Thailand reported 315 new virus cases on Sunday with 294 of them locally transmitted, according to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. The nation's total caseload climbed to 7,694 with the capital Bangkok and the provinces of Samut Sakhon and Rayong the major hotspots.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has refrained from re-imposing a national lockdown, saying the nation can contain the recent outbreak. Still, the surge in infections is likely to delay plans to reopen the country to tourism with a nationwide state of emergency remaining in place to allow authorities impose restrictions quickly if deemed necessary.

'Strong medicine'

The authorities aren't pushing for a nationwide uniform restrictions as they are seeking to minimize the impact on the community, Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration spokesman Taweesilp Witsanuyotin said at a briefing on Sunday.

Provincial authorities will be allowed to impose "tailor-made measures" to contain the outbreak, he said.

"Even though we know that we need strong medicine today, strong medicine has many side effects," Dr Taweesilp said. "We have learnt our lessons from using strong doses across the board earlier. Those who suffer the most are normal people who try to live their lives."

Thailand may face additional hurdles to reviving its economy from a recurrence of anti-government protests, according to the institute's survey.

While almost 77 per cent of respondents said they expected the political situation to remain chaotic or get worse, 43.2 per cent participants predicted pro-democracy protests will take place again this year.

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