Strict measures, including a curfew, will be imposed in Bangkok and five adjacent provinces for two weeks starting from Monday as the government attempts to curb the soaring number of new Covid-19 infections.
The same 9pm-4am curfew will also be imposed in the four southermost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla and Yala.
The tightened measures affect Greater Bangkok, which encompasses the capital and the five neighbouring provinces of Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom, Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon.
The announcement was made by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Friday afternoon.
Measures to be imposed in Greater Bangkok include the closure of department store malls except for businesses such as supermarkets, which will be allowed to operate until 8pm.
Other premises allowed to open until 8pm in the malls are banks, chemists, shops selling communication devices and vaccination centres.
Other measures in Greater Bangkok are:
- All eateries to close at 8pm.
- Work for home encouraged for all businesses.
- Strict enforcement of social distancing measures.
- No public transport services from 9pm to 4am.
- Closure of public parks at 9pm.
- Closure of all infection-risk businesses such as salons, spas and traditional massage parlours.
- No gatherings of more than five people, except for religious functions.
- Covenience stores and night markets closed from 8pm to 4am.
CCSA assistant spokeswoman Apisamai Srirungson stressed the lockdown measures focus on Greater Bangkok. However, checkpoints would be set up from Saturday in all provinces to discourage people's movements, she said.
Greater Bangkok is the centre of the third virus surge that began in early April, triggered by the arrival of the Delta strain first found in India. New cases have also soared in the four southern provinces, but mostly the Beta variant first detected in South Africa.
Health officials said the Delta variant would soon dominate in Thailand.
The measures were announced as new transmissions contnued to rise and with no let up in fatalities, even though all workers' camps have been closed and dining-in banned at eateries since Monday.
Thailand logged a record high of 75 fatalities on Wednesday and the second highest number of new infections, 9,276, on Thursday. The highest number of daily infections was 9,635 on May 17. Another 72 deaths were recorded on Friday.
There is also a serious bed shortage as more patients stay longer in hospitals and the rate of discharges slows. More than 700 people are on ventilators.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who chaired the CCSA meeting on Friday, reportedly directed authorities to keep new infections down during the semi-lockdown period and said all measures to fight the outbreak would be adjusted to better cope with the rapid virus spread.
The prime minister also decided to take a three-month pay cut to save state budget funds for the fight against the pandemic. Other cabinet ministers then followed.
Gen Prayut receives 125,590 baht a month, from a salary of 75,900 baht and position allowance of 50,000 baht. He does not receive a salary as the defence minister. A cabinet member is allowed to receive a salary from only one position, the highest-paid one.
Limiting the lockdown to selected provinces was favoured by business leaders to minimise the economic damage.