Govt extends emergency to 2021 to curb virus resurgence

Govt extends emergency to 2021 to curb virus resurgence

FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wears a face mask while gesturing to a crowd during a visit to Phuket, to revive the tourism industry affected by the Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic, on Nov 3, 2020. (AFP photo/Royal Thai Government)
FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wears a face mask while gesturing to a crowd during a visit to Phuket, to revive the tourism industry affected by the Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic, on Nov 3, 2020. (AFP photo/Royal Thai Government)

The government will extend a nationwide state of emergency through Jan 15 to prevent a resurgence in coronavirus infections during the peak New Year’s travel period, an official said.

A meeting of the Covid-19 task force chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha approved the extension to help authorities enforce mandatory quarantines and streamline disease-control plans, Taweesilp Witsanuyotin, a spokesman for the panel, told reporters in Bangkok on Wednesday.

The extension, which is expected to be approved by the cabinet next week, would be the eighth since the initial order in March. Authorities have gradually been relaxing some virus measures over the past several months to allow businesses to fully reopen and some visitors to return.

While Thailand has been largely free of community transmission of the deadly virus, the economy has been battered by the hit from the pandemic to the exports and tourism sectors, its two key growth drivers.

The Covid-19 panel discussed relaxing a mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors from select low-risk countries but a decision was deferred following concerns raised by some officials, Dr Taweesilp said. The proposal included allowing visitors to leave the quarantine centres after 10 days and travel to some restricted areas, he said.

The country remains closed to most tourists though it has unveiled a long-stay visa programme to revive tourism, which generated about $60 billion in revenue in 2019. The Covid-19 panel approved use of golf resorts as quarantine centres, Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said.

Chulalongkorn University will begin human trials of its Covid-19 vaccine from next year, Dr Taweesilp said. The cabinet on Tuesday approved a budget of 6.05 billion baht to secure 26 million doses of vaccine from AstraZeneca Plc once they become available.

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