Thailand bans large gatherings ahead of New Year to contain outbreak

BANGKOK: Thailand imposed a ban yesterday on large gatherings and events across the country in an effort to contain its worst coronavirus outbreak yet with active cases in over half of its provinces.

The authorities have asked the public to avoid travel and have imposed tighter control measures in some areas, including entertainment businesses. Targeted lockdowns have been imposed in some provincial districts ahead of the New Year.

The Health Ministry confirmed 250 new infections yesterday, among the largest number of confirmed daily cases since a big outbreak found nearly two weeks ago that was the country's largest yet.

"Today's figures made me nervous... what we don't want to see is a second or third lockdown," Covid-19 task force spokesman Taweesin Wisanuyothin told a briefing.

"If the situation can't be controlled, rather than count down to the New Year, we may count up (the number of cases)."

More aggressive restrictions like those seen earlier in the year may need to be imposed if the spread is not contained, he said.

Those measures, which included closure of malls, restaurants and entertainment areas and restrictions on international travel, caused the tourism-reliant economy to contract the most in 22 years in the second quarter.

Though low compared with many countries, the sharp increase in Thailand's daily cases is a setback for its efforts to keep the virus at bay, having recorded just 6,690 infections and 61 deaths overall. - REUTERS