BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand plans to close schools, bars, movie theaters, cockfighting arenas and other entertainment centers as well as postpone next month’s Thai New Year holiday to help limit the spread of coronavirus, officials said on Monday.
The planned measures come after new cases jumped by nearly threefold in the space of a week to reach 147. Thirty-three new coronavirus infections were reported on Monday. One person has died of the respiratory illness in Thailand.
The cabinet was expected on Tuesday to approve closures of all universities, public and private schools, kick-boxing rings, cockfighting arenas, bars and theaters, deputy government spokeswoman Ratchada Thanadirek said on Twitter.
Cockfighting is legal and hugely popular in Thailand.
The government also plans to postpone the traditional Songkran New Year holiday, which falls on April 13-15, to limit travel inside the country and across its borders for the traditional water festival.
Restaurants will probably be allowed to remain open if they take precautions against coronavirus contagion such as social distancing, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said.
But he added that two clusters of infections linked to a bar and a crowded boxing match showed the need to limit public gatherings. He also recommended that government employees work from home if they can.
“In this situation, prevention and treatment are the number one priorities. We have to prioritize people’s lives over tourism and economic impacts. We don’t know how tough the upcoming battle will be,” Wissanu said.
Some businesses have already acted on their own, temporarily shutting their doors as customer numbers have dwindled. Jumbaree Parlick, who owns a pub in one of Bangkok’s busiest nightlife districts, closed it down for the first time in over 40 years due to a lack of customers. “I think it’s not worth it to stay open. Even if the government hadn’t ordered it, we ought to close ourselves,” she said.
The new measures were adopted on by a special coronavirus task force chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Additional reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Kay Johnson and Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Mark Heinrich)