Pattaya and three eastern provinces should be sealed off, with no one able to enter or leave without government permission, Thailand’s Public Health Ministry suggested Saturday, unveiling its latest plan to combat the East’s exploding coronavirus outbreak.
Going beyond a quasi-lockdown of 28 red zones already submitted for approval by the Center for Covid-19, the proposal outlined Saturday by Deputy Health Minister Satit Pitutacha would impose hard travel limits on Chonburi, Rayong and Chanthaburi residents for 28 days because, basically, they lie, he said.
Satit asserted that 99 percent of the hundreds of Covid-19 cases that have emerged over the past week all are tied to illegal casinos in Rayong and Chanthaburi, with infected gamblers and lying to contact tracers and failing to divulge their true movements out of fear of being prosecuted.
That has crippled contact-tracing efforts and fueled the outbreak spreading across the East and into other areas of Thailand. A woman found infected in Ayutthaya on Friday, for example, had just arrived from Pattaya.
Speaking at a news conference at a newly converted field hospital at the Marine Corps headquarters in Chonburi’s Sattahip District, Satit said, if the plan is approved, police or the army would block highways at the borders of each of the three provinces while local police would restrict access on surface streets.
Checkpoint guards would block all inbound and outbound travelers who didn’t have urgent business travel approved by the government.
Rayong and then Chonburi’s Banglamung District, which includes Pattaya, were the first to implement strict business shutdowns following the outbreak that began at Muang, Rayong gambling den and were set – along with 26 higher provinces reclassified Friday as highly-controlled areas to be subjected to a quasi-lockdown that could be approved Sunday by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
That plan, called Level 1 restrictions, would discourage – but not ban – all non-essential interprovincial travel, working from home, the move to online schooling, closing additional high-risk businesses and limiting hours of those allowed to remain open, such as shopping malls. Dine-in service at restaurants would be banned.
Satit’s proposal skips right over Level 1 and moves to the CCSA’s vaguely defined Level 2 which calls for hard travel restrictions, along with further business closures and even a curfew.
He speculated it could come into effect by the end of next week.
While the ministry’s plan is just a suggestion, it’s likely to spark panic in the provinces and mass exodus of people out of the East back to their home provinces, further spreading the virus. Critics said it would have been better to announce such a drastic lockdown without giving people days of warning.