Govt mulls easing curfew as cases drop

Govt mulls easing curfew as cases drop

Bamrung Muang Road, in Phra Nakhon district of Bangkok, which is famous for being lined with shops selling statues of Buddha, is deserted after 10pm on April 3 night. Prime Minister Prayut Chao-cha earlier announced a 10pm-4am nationwide curfew to combat the outbreak of the Covid19 virus. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Bamrung Muang Road, in Phra Nakhon district of Bangkok, which is famous for being lined with shops selling statues of Buddha, is deserted after 10pm on April 3 night. Prime Minister Prayut Chao-cha earlier announced a 10pm-4am nationwide curfew to combat the outbreak of the Covid19 virus. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The government may start to ease the curfew by the end of this month if Covid-19 cases continue to fall. However, Siriraj Hospital is urging the authorities to do so sooner.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration on Wednesday reported 30 new cases of the coronavirus, increasing the national figure to 2,643. The figure was down four when compared to cases recorded on Tuesday.

The government imposed a nationwide curfew between 10pm and 4am from April 3 to April 30 as a measure to combat coronavirus transmission.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, speaking after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, noted a decline in the number of newly recorded virus cases per day.

Gen Prayut said the CCSA will take this fact into account and consider whether to ease curfew restrictions.

He said the curfew will be reviewed during the last week of this month as the government looks for alternative measures to flatten the curve of infections.

Restrictions will be gradually eased but measures to prevent a second wave of infections must be put in place, Gen Prayut said, adding the CCSA also will weigh whether to extend the nationwide state of emergency, which is set to expire on April 26.

"I have realised that restrictions under the emergency decree have affected people," he said.

"The government is trying to come up with alternative measures."

Prasit Watanapa, dean at the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, said curfew restrictions should begin to be relaxed after April 22, following a 14-day incubation period for new infections.

The suggestion to ease curfews early followed a request from the business sector.

In Chon Buri, the provincial communicable disease committee has already begun to ease restrictions by allowing electronic retailers in department stores to reopen for business from May 1.

Dr Prasit said the declining number of new infections after the 14-day period should be used as the real indicator of when the curve is being flattened in Thailand.

According to that indicator, starting on April 9, new infections should slow, he said.

Even though the number of new cases showed a downward trend, the kingdom must not lower its guard or else the novel coronavirus disease will continue to affect the country.

If the number of new cases grows, Thailand's public health service could collapse due to a critical shortage of resources, including beds, tools, manpower and medicine. This is why authorities stress flattening the curve, to alleviate pressure on the system.

However, Dr Prasit said the country has been doing a good job to curb the number of new cases, with reductions by 30 to 40 per day, noting a study by the hospital found new cases should not exceed 32.7 cases per day.

"If we have truly seen a decreasing number of new cases, death rates, and several recoveries, it means that the outbreak is going to ease," he said.

"Then the government could gradually ease restrictions on some activities."

Additionally, the cabinet on Wednesday endorsed a proposal to extend the Covid-19 financial compensation programme for formal workers under the social security system (SSS) affected by the pandemic.

The compensation will cover members who have lost their job or were suspended due to the outbreak which hit the country in the beginning of this year.

The proposal to do so was approved on Tuesday by the social security board which agreed the impact of the outbreak on workers was legally considered as "force majeure".

It will also cover workers with Covid-19 and those under the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.


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