New COVID-19 restrictions in Thailand as cases rise

Bangkok: New COVID-19 restrictions came into force in Thailand on Monday to try to halt a spiraling outbreak that saw deaths hit a record single-day high over the weekend.

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In Bangkok – where the latest outbreak has been traced back to a nightlife district – as well as 46 other provinces, wearing masks is now compulsory in public spaces, backed up by the threat of a 20,000 baht ($640; Dh2,335) fine.

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Authorities in the capital have also closed a raft of venues including cinemas, parks, gyms, swimming pools, spas and nurseries.

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The new restrictions come a week after authorities ordered bars and nightclubs to close and banned restaurants from serving alcohol.

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The tightening comes amid a spike in cases – total infections reached 57,500 on Monday, up from just 29,000 in early April.

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Some 2,048 new cases were announced on Monday, while Sunday saw Thailand record its highest single-day death toll of the pandemic, with 11 fatalities.

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Until the latest outbreak Thailand had managed to keep infections down, thanks to travel restrictions and swift action to isolate confirmed cases.

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But there have been complaints about the slow rollout of vaccinations, with Thailand lagging behind other countries in the region.

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Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha said on Facebook the government was trying to source more vaccine doses and ramp up the programme to inoculate 300,000 people a day.

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In neighbouring Cambodia, also in the grip of a new wave of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged factory owners in the key garment sector to help protect workers.

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“The current outbreaks in factories and markets serve as a painful reminder of the importance of investing in mitigation measures before cases occur, to help prevent the virus spreading,” Li Ailan, WHO representative in Cambodia, said in a statement.

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Li urged factory owners to do more temperature screening and rearrange workshops to allow social distancing.

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Phnom Penh has been under lockdown for 12 days now and last week the authorities ordered all wet markets in the city to close for 14 days.

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Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday ordered tougher enforcement of lockdown measures.

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Cambodia has reported 9,975 cases in total and 74 deaths including 10 on Saturday – a single-day record for the country.

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Neighbouring Laos – which appeared to escape the brunt of the pandemic last year – is also undergoing a surge, jumping from 58 cases to 323 in less than a week.

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Its capital, Vientiane, was placed under a snap lockdown last week, with authorities prohibiting residents from leaving their homes except for groceries and going to hospital.

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