PM issues plea for 'patience'

PM issues plea for 'patience'

Emergency 'needed to flatten virus curve'

Bangkok is deserted on the night of April 3 when the curfew started. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Bangkok is deserted on the night of April 3 when the curfew started. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has urged people and business operators to be patient for a little longer as the government has decided to extend the state of emergency for another month in its continued efforts to flatten the Covid-19 infection curve.

"I realise that everyone, including low-income earners, farmers and those with independent careers, is experiencing hard times. The government will take good care of you with existing budgets and an executive decree on borrowing, the details of which will come out later."

"I would like business operators to be patient a little bit longer. I also share your pain," the prime minister said after a cabinet meeting which approved the extension on Tuesday.

Gen Prayut, who is also chief of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), gave assurances that the government will take great care of people affected by the economic slowdown caused by Covid-19.

"When it is time to lift the lockdown, I will let you know. Don't make too many demands... We still have to watch out for a resurgence in infections," Gen Prayut said.

The cabinet on Tuesday officially extended the state of emergency to control the coronavirus for another month to May 31, maintained the curfew and set guidelines for easing the lockdown of businesses.

Issued on March 26, the decree which led to the lockdown, curfew and other restrictions will expire tomorrow.

Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat said the cabinet agreed with the proposal from the National Security Council that the state of emergency be extended from May 1 to 31.

The cabinet also decided to maintain disease control measures. Inbound traffic by land, water and air into Thailand will remain heavily restricted. Inbound flights will be banned for another month from May 1 to 31.

The curfew will remain in place from 10pm to 4am. Unnecessary inter-provincial travel must be cancelled or postponed.

People will be prohibited from entering crowded areas for activities that facilitate the spread of the virus. Provincial governors will set their own restrictions accordingly.

The cabinet also ordered the Foreign Affairs Ministry to quickly determine the exact number of Thais stranded in other countries who want to return home, and coordinate with the CCSA to prepare to handle them and place them in quarantine.

Regarding the relaxation of restrictions, the cabinet resolved that public health be the main determining factor.

Control measures can be eased for activities that are necessary to support life, but disease prevention protocols must be implemented strictly, according to the cabinet.

If disease control measures are effective, there will be further relaxation, but if they are violated or the spread of Covid-19 worsens, the easing of restrictions will be terminated right away, Ms Narumon said.

As measures are relaxed, Covid-19 testing will be accelerated, especially among at-risk groups of people including service providers and migrant workers.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration plans to reopen restaurants, markets, exercise venues, parks, hairdressers, clinics, animal hospitals and grooming parlours, golf courses and driving ranges.

Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang said on Tuesday the city's current lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 was set to expire at midnight on Friday.

The BMA had informed the government of its plan to reopen venues in eight categories, with strict conditions.

Among the venues that would be allowed to reopened are restaurants which would have to seat customers 1.5 metres apart, comply with opening hours as restricted by the emergency decree, and not sell alcoholic beverages, Pol Gen Aswin said.

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