Infections falling, government considers easing rules

As the number of daily COVID-19 infections continued to fall in Thailand, the government said it would consider easing some of the restrictions on business and gatherings with the Ministry of Public Health setting conditions that localities must meet before easing could be implemented.

Thai government and public health officials imposed a menu of strict measures in their strategy to contain the spread of the coronavirus. On March 26, the Prime Minister declared a state of emergency. Government officials said that declaration would likely be extended after May 1, but that some rules would start to be relaxed.

Local aviation authorities said most domestic flights would resume May 1, but with compulsory social distancing measures. The government has barred most international flights, told non-essential businesses to shut down, closed malls, banned sales of alcohol, issued a nighttime curfew, and encouraged social distancing, mask-wearing, and better hygiene.

The government’s actions appear to be working. Thailand recorded just 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, April 24, capping a three-week period in which the number of new cases trended further downward most days. Friday’s figure was less than half of the 33 new cases on April 18, and a steep drop from the peak of 143 new infections on March 29.

Since confirmation of the first case in Thailand on January 13, a total of 2,854 people have contracted the virus, and 50 have died. Also, 2,490 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals, while the rest are still under care.

“This decision [to ease restrictions] will come after we have looked at the figures and numbers,” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said after a weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. He said that at next week’s meeting, the ministers would consider relaxing some of the measures in provinces that have been less affected.

“I have not announced that the restrictions will ease from May 1,” Prayut said in response to rumors circulating about that date. Although he said he is aware that the measures are causing economic pain, he added that “It is vital to be cautious about making decisions on whether to relax [emergency] restrictions or not.”

“Although the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be improving at the moment, with new infections declining, we still need more time to observe the situation. There is no room for complacency here. We have received calls to ease certain restrictions, but we have to think about being prudent,” Prime Minister Prayut said.

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