Thailand is set to ban sales of alcoholic beverages in restaurants and close schools and amusement parks for two weeks to stem a fresh outbreak of coronavirus, potentially jeopardizing its plans to reopen borders to foreign tourists.
The closure of bars, pubs, karaoke and massage parlors in areas including Bangkok, the epicenter of the latest outbreak, may be extended nationwide until the end of April, the National Committee on Communicable Diseases decided on Thursday. While Bangkok and 17 other provinces will be designated as maximum controlled areas because of the severity of the outbreak, 59 others will be designated as controlled areas, the panel said.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha will chair a meeting of the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration on Friday to consider the fresh curbs. The Southeast Asian nation had last week ordered the closure of entertainment venues in Bangkok and 40 other virus-hit provinces for at least two weeks to contain the third wave of infections that emerged from bars and pubs in the capital city.
The government has ruled out a national lockdown with Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul saying each province will be free to decide on any travel restrictions. The virus spread can be contained within two weeks if people comply with the new curbs, he said.
The control measures dampened the annual Songkran festivities, when millions of Thais travel across the country for family reunions and holidays, for a second year and weakened private consumption and domestic tourism. An extended period of restrictions may delay plans to lure vaccinated tourists and further weaken an economic recovery that the Thai central bank says is contingent on return of foreign visitors.
The fresh measures to fight the outbreak will hurt retail and recreation activities which had returned to pre-pandemic levels in recent months and derail attempts to revive the all-important tourism industry, Moody’s Analytics said in a report this week. Thai economy will contract 0.6% in the first quarter from the previous three months, it said, reversing an earlier forecast for a 1.3% growth.
"We expect the Thai government to roll out additional stimulus to lessen the fallout from the pandemic,” Eric Chiang, associate economist at Moody’s Analytics, said in the report. "Thailand will face a slow economic recovery, and the government deficit will remain elevated at 4.8% in 2021 and 3.2% in 2022.”
Thailand reported 1,582 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, a new single-day record, that took the cumulative tally of infections to 39,038. The new wave, which began early this month, has spread to more than 70 provinces and sickened more than 10,000 people, some of them with a more contagious variant first found in the U.K.
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