BANGKOK (Reuters) – The Thai government banned entry for all non-resident foreigners on Wednesday but held off on restricting people’s movement inside the country as the government prepared to roll out emergency measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
A state of emergency will take effect from midnight local time (1700 GMT) until April 30, giving Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha sweeping powers to combat the surge of coronavirus infection.
The Southeast Asian country recorded 107 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the known total to 934. Four people have died since the outbreak began, 860 are hospitalised while 70 patients have recovered and gone home.
New restrictions taking effect at midnight include the closing of all border crossings except for Thai nationals, diplomats and their families, and foreigners with work permits or other official documents allowing them to work in Thailand.
“We are not closing the country, we are still allowing Thai people to return but for foreigners the country is closed,” Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told a news conference. He added that airports will remain open to flights from abroad.
Wissanu said the government had no immediate plans to impose curfews or travel restrictions within the country. But he said checkpoints would be set up to screen inter-provincial travellers and an “all day curfew” could still be introduced in certain areas if coronavirus contagion worsened.
The government on Sunday closed down department stores, malls, dine-in restaurants, entertainment venues and other public places for several weeks in major cities across the country.
It is still allowing banks, government offices, pharmacies and grocery stores to operate as normal but urged people over the age of 70, children under five and people with respiratory and other health complications to stay home.
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Mark Heinrich)