Thailand Extends Emergency to New Year to Curb Virus Resurgence

Thailand will extend a nationwide state of emergency through Jan. 15 to prevent a resurgence in coronavirus infections during the peak New Year’s travel period.

A meeting of the Covid-19 task force chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha approved the extension to help authorities enforce mandatory quarantines and streamline disease-control plans, Taweesilp Witsanuyotin, a spokesman for the panel, told reporters in Bangkok Wednesday.

The extension, which is expected to be approved by the cabinet next week, would be the eighth since the initial order in March. The Southeast Asian nation has been gradually relaxing some of its virus measures over the past several months to allow businesses to fully reopen and some visitors to return.

While Thailand has been largely free of community transmission of the deadly virus, its economy has been battered by the hit from the pandemic to its exports and tourism sectors, its two key growth drivers.

The Covid-19 panel discussed relaxing a mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors from select low-risk countries but a decision was deferred following concerns raised by some officials, Taweesilp said. The proposal included allowing visitors to leave the quarantine centers after 10 days and travel to some restricted areas, he said.

Thailand remains closed to most tourists though it has unveiled a long-stay visa program to revive tourism, which generated about $60 billion in revenue in 2019. The Covid-19 panel approved use of golf resorts as quarantine centers, Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said.

Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University will begin human trials of its Covid-19 vaccine from next year, Taweesilp said. The cabinet on Tuesday approved a budget of 6.05 billion baht to secure 26 million doses of vaccine from AstraZeneca Plc once they become available.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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