PM rules out immediate lockdown

PM rules out immediate lockdown

Says night venues reopening delayed

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has insisted Thailand will not reimpose an immediate national lockdown despite concerns over the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

But he said the schedule for easing anti-Covid measures for night entertainment venues might be postponed another month amid concerns over the variant which has now been detected in at least 24 countries around the world.

Gen Prayut said the country now has RT-PCR screening tests, together with quarantine measures during the wait for results.

The prime minister said a lockdown will be suspended for now.

Asked by the media if anti-Covid measures for night entertainment venues would be eased, Gen Prayut said "this matter might be further postponed to monitor the situation closely for another month".

State agencies have also been instructed to come up with remedial measures for nightlife businesses which will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval, Gen Prayut said.

"We must apologise for the changes. When the new virus emerged, we must come up with such measures," he said.

"While the old variants of Covid-19 still exist, the vaccines we have are a must despite the new variant," he said. "So far, the Omicron infection has not been detected in Thailand."

Gen Prayut also urged business operators to study anti-Covid measures to ensure the safe reopening of their businesses and activities.

Meanwhile, Chawetsan Namwat, director of the Emergency Health Hazard and Disease Control Division, said officials are tracking 782 tourists, including 252 tourists from eight risk-prone countries in southern Africa, who entered the country on Nov 15, to repeat the RT-PCR test.

The eight countries are Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

So far, 44 tourists have been discovered, 23 of whom were from the eight countries.

City clerk Khachit Chatchawanit said due to the discovery of the Omicron variant, Thailand has restricted the entry of visitors who come from risk-prone countries. The restriction came into effect on Wednesday.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) will also deploy officials to inspect communities that reside with Africans. Covid-19 prevention measures for travellers from Africa have been changed to extend quarantine periods.

Meanwhile, Virologist Yong Poovorawan, chief of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University, is developing a test to detect the Omicron variant.

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