The Public Health Ministry has raised the nation’s Covid-19 alert level from 3 to 4 following a rapid increase in Omicron variant infections.
Health permanent secretary Kiattiphum Wongrajit announced the decision on Thursday morning.
He said raising the warning to level 4 included encouraging people to work from home, suspend travel, closing risk areas and limiting the number of people at gatherings.
"We are seeing a fast outbreak at this time. There are several provinces that have more than one new case, including 769 cases in Chon Buri and 454 in Bangkok. So we do need to raise the warning to level 4," he said at a press conference in Phuket.
The decision came after new cases jumped to 5,775 over the previous 24 hours from 3,899 the day before.
Dr Kiattiphum said patients with mild symptoms should be isolated at home, to allow hospitals to cater for patients with more serious conditions.
In Bangkok, Opas Karnkawinpong, the director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said new cases could quickly surpass 10,000 a day, based on the rise in infections reported on Thursday morning.
"We could have over 10,000 new infections [daily] very soon," he said.
He strongly advised people to postpone non-essential trips to other provinces and countries. "Public transport should be avoided for interprovincial trips," Dr Opas said.
If people have a positive ATK test, they should contact hotline 1330 of the National Health Security Office or their provincial public health office, he said.
Dr Opas provided new guidelines for people to protect themselves from Covid-19, after the country's alert level was raised from 3 to 4. They are:
- Avoid visiting poorly ventilated and congested areas, wear protective masks, and refrain from eating and drinking in restaurants and public places.
- Avoid large gatherings and related activities.
- Refrain from interprovincial travel, if it is not necessary. Take precautions when using all types of public transport. Wear face masks. Take ATK tests after travelling for a long period.
- Refrain from travelling abroad due to the spike in Covid-19 cases in many countries.
On Friday, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) will discuss Covid-19 control zones and venues that may be temporarily shut down, Dr Opas added.
He said factories that have proper ventilation and follow social distancing rules are not considered risk areas. If workers tested positive, the factories should remain open as the workers may return to their home provinces, causing further spread of the virus.
Schools can apply the same measures, conduct an evaluation of infection risks presented by all education personnel, and continue practicing social distancing.