Thailand’s prime minister has urged people to stay at home to help contain a surging coronavirus outbreak that began in a seafood market, and to avoid a strict lockdown.
Prayuth Chan-ocha, speaking after the health authorities confirmed a daily record of 745 new cases, said the government was mindful of the potential economic damage from tough containment measures.
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“We don’t want to lock down the entire country because we know what the problems are, therefore can you all lock down yourselves?” he told reporters.
“This is up to everyone,” Prayuth said. “If we don’t want to get infected, just stay home for 14 to 15 days. If you think like this, then things will be safe; easier for screening.”
The government has declared 28 provinces, including Bangkok, as high-risk zones and asked people to work from home and avoid gathering or travelling across provincial borders.
Thailand, which was the first country to record a case of COVID-19 outside China, has recorded a total of 8,439 coronavirus cases and 65 deaths since the pandemic began.
Most of the new cases are linked to a cluster among migrant workers that started in Samut Sakhon, a coastal province southwest of Bangkok, and led to cases in more than half the country’s 77 provinces.
Singapore and Malaysia have also seen surges in cases among migrant workers who mostly live in crowded dormitories that provide the ideal conditions for the virus to thrive.
In Thailand, the government’s COVID-19 taskforce has recommended extending an emergency decree that gives power to health authorities and provincial governors until the end of February.
Prayuth relaxed a requirement from Bangkok city authorities for restaurants and food vendors in the capital to stop dine-in services at 7pm (12:00 GMT), allowing owners an additional two hours to continue trade. Takeaway will be allowed.
The sale of alcohol has been banned in restaurants, while bars and nightclubs in the capital and high-risk provinces have been ordered to shut. Provincial governors have been empowered to set their own restrictions.
Schools and education centres across the country have been closed for a month.