Coronavirus curfew term likely to be extended

Coronavirus curfew term likely to be extended

A man takes a motorbike taxi at Asok intersection on Friday ahead of a temporary curfew imposed due to the coronavirus. (Bloomberg photo)
A man takes a motorbike taxi at Asok intersection on Friday ahead of a temporary curfew imposed due to the coronavirus. (Bloomberg photo)

The six-hour curfew, which started on Friday night, is likely to be extended, even if it succeeds in stopping gatherings and lowering the coronavirus transmission rate.

"The period may increase to 8, 10, 12 or even more hours," Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Friday to clarify doubts over the night-time curfew intended to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is still "concerned" by the current transmission rate, with 100-plus new infections reported each day, Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman of the government's Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said.

Defence Forces chief Pornpipat Benyasri, who heads up security for the CCSA, yesterday issued an announcement prohibiting any gatherings or activities that increase the risk of spreading the virus, or take advantage of people during the crisis.

Violators are subject to two-year imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of 40,000 baht.

Asked why the government does not order people to stay at home in the evening, Mr Wissanu said "that may happen soon" after they become more familiar with the curfew.

He did not elaborate when the new term could be applied but said authorities will base their decision on daily situational assessments.

The period will be extended if many people defy the order, which is aimed at stopping them from gathering at night, or even if the measure proves to be effective in halting the rapid spread of the virus, he said.

The deputy prime minister warned those who violate the current 10pm to 4am curfew will face "very severe" punishments under Section 18 of the emergency decree announced last week to halt the spread of Covid-19.

But Mr Wissanu said the curfew excludes some people who need to travel at nighttime, including medical personnel, patients and those working for transport or delivery services.

They must show documents at checkpoints, which range from national identity cards to certificates endorsing their need to work at odd hours.

"Media crews are strictly not allowed to work during the curfew," Mr Wissanu said, adding if they want to report on the atmosphere, they would need to seek prior permission.

People doing some jobs like fishing and rubber tapping are also required to get permission from authorities, including police officers and village heads.

Mr Wissanu said expanding the curfew would suit the reality of coronavirus itself.

"The virus never takes a break. It spreads for 24 hours," Mr Wissanu said, while adding that shutting down Bangkok during the day is currently not feasible.

He said many will not welcome the order until they "realise" its necessity and become "more responsible" for the nation.

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