Drinking curbed in 69 provinces

Drinking curbed in 69 provinces

Nightclubs blamed for surge in cases

Stop & swab: A medical worker takes a swab sample from a passenger at a drive-through facility in the southern bus terminal on Boromratchonnanee Road in Taling Chan district. The Covid-19 testing service is provided by Ratchaphiphat Hospital until April 1. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)
Stop & swab: A medical worker takes a swab sample from a passenger at a drive-through facility in the southern bus terminal on Boromratchonnanee Road in Taling Chan district. The Covid-19 testing service is provided by Ratchaphiphat Hospital until April 1. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

Alcohol consumption in restaurants in 69 re-zoned provinces will be banned starting on Sunday as part of a raft of revised government measures to contain the recent surge of Covid-19 infections.

The Covid-19 zoning status of eight other provinces approved for tourism promotion remains unchanged, meaning alcohol is allowed to be served in restaurants until 9pm.

These decisions were made during Friday's Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, where the government opted for a balanced approach to tourism and curbing Covid-19.

"All measures have been comprehensively considered -- [including] health concerns and their impact on people," Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the CCSA, said after the meeting.

He said the CCSA decided to step up public health management controls in the 69 provinces, including by banning alcohol in restaurants.

The closure of every night entertainment venue -- such as pubs and karaoke parlours -- across the country was also extended by the CCSA, which decided to delay the reopening of nightlife venues after many of them failed to comply with precautions, leading to the latest outbreak of Covid-19 transmissions.

"The authorities will take stern action against all premises that violate public health regulations," he warned.

However, nightlife venues can seek permission from provincial communicable disease committees to operate as restaurants instead, Dr Taweesilp said.

The government has also advised that all offices continue the work-from-home format until the end of this month where possible, he added.

Dr Taweesilp said the CCSA agreed to prolong the suspension of the Test & Go entry programme until further notice, with Jan 15 as the last day for all pre-approved arrivals.

About 10,000 people who registered with the programme have not yet entered the country, he said.

The government had said earlier that all successful applicants must arrive in Thailand by Monday.

"Test & Go is a loophole for the virus to enter the country," the spokesman said.

Most new infections of the Omicron variant have been linked to people who entered under the Test & Go scheme, according to Public Health Ministry officials.

There have been 26,402 tourist arrivals this month, most of them through the Test & Go programme, according to the latest CCSA figures on Wednesday. Last year there were 416,160 foreign arrivals. Most of them arrived under the programme, which started on Nov 1, before it was suspended on Dec 22.

The kingdom's sandbox schemes for all destinations, except Phuket, were put on hold on Dec 22 as the government tried to control a spike in cases and the arrival of the Omicron variant.

Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan in Surat Thani and the entire provinces of Krabi and Phangnga have now been added to the sandbox scheme.

He said Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul had given a guarantee that public health would not be jeopardised.

"The public health minister confirmed [the priority of] public health safety," he said. Travellers must use only designated transport and routes and stay in designated hotels, the CCSA spokesman said.

The CCSA kept the status of the eight provinces approved for tourism promotion unchanged, meaning they are allowed to serve alcoholic beverages at eateries until 9pm. They are Bangkok, Chon Buri, Kanchanaburi Krabi, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Phangnga and Phuket.

Thailand logged 7,526 new Covid-19 cases and 19 more coronavirus-related fatalities during the previous 24 hours, the Public Health Ministry said on Friday.


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