Pattaya and more than a third of Thailand will go into quasi-lockdown Monday if Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha approves the latest proposal from the country’s coronavirus task force to beat back a second wave of Covid-19.
“It’s like a lockdown, but we’re not using that word,” Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration spokesman Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin said at his Saturday morning news briefing.
As Pattaya saw its first death of the new outbreak and another 32 cases Saturday, the CCSA reclassified 28 provinces into the highest-risk red zones and the rest of Thailand’s provinces into orange and yellow zones. The second wave now has spread so far, no province is left in the green virus-free zone.
It also outlines a proposal likely to be approved today or Sunday that calls for Level 1 and Level 2 lockdown-like procedures to further clamp down spread of the virus.
Level 1, envisioned to run from 6 a.m. Jan. 4 to 6 a.m. on Feb. 1, would discourage all non-essential interprovincial travel, close additional high-risk businesses and limit hours of those allowed to remain open, such as shopping malls. Dine-in service at restaurants would be banned.
While Chonburi, Bangkok, Samut Sakhon and a handful of other provinces already are in line with Level 1 closures of public venues and meeting spots, restrictions would be new for 17 other provinces only designated highly controlled areas on Saturday.
If coronavirus case numbers continue to rise, a set of Level 2 restrictions would come into effect which would include hard travel restrictions on vulnerable groups, even tighter controls on what businesses would be allowed to remain open, and possibly a national curfew.
The new proposals – along with reclassification of 28 provinces into the highly-controlled red zone areas – came after yet another 216 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours, comprising 182 Thais, 32 migrant workers and two imported cases.
The CCSA also reported another death, a 47-year old diabetic Thai woman living in Chonburi who had visited an underground casino in Banglamung District and tested positive for the virus on Dec. 30. She was said to be asymptomatic when admitted to a field hospital at the Grand Bella Hotel in Pattaya, but Covid-19 was still listed as her cause of death.
Thailand’s total cases stand at 7,379, with 4,299 recoveries and 64 deaths.
Of today’s 182 new local cases, Samut Sakhon and Chonburi recorded the most with 37 and 32 cases, respectively. Rayong followed with 27, then Nonthaburi (25), Samut Prakan (23), Bangkok (18) and Chanthaburi (10).
The rest were found in Pathum Thani (2), Nakhon Pathom (2), Ang Thong (2) and one each in Chai Nat, Ratchaburi, Ayutthaya, and Suphan Buri.
The CCSA’s Taweesin said the meteoric rises in cases, combined with widespread New Year’s holiday travel, increasingly are making it impossible to do effective contract tracing, which, he said, is essential to break the chain of infections.
While the Rayong and Samut Sakhon clusters have cooled, they still are producing new connected cases. But many new cases elsewhere in the country cannot be traced, he said.
Unlike earlier in the pandemic, Thais are not following proper safety standards. Many are not self-quarantining after coming into contact with infected people, continue to engage in potential superspreader activities, such as visiting illegal casinos, and not wearing masks as often as they should.
If the public doesn’t have the willpower to do what it should the government is then forced to take extreme actions to control the outbreak, Taweesin said.
The original version of this story first appeared in the Bangkok Herald, a Pattaya Mail partner.