Thai Economic Conditions Tipped to Worsen as Virus Spreads
Sethaput Suthiwart-Narueput, governor of the Bank of Thailand, adjust his glasses while speaking during a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photographer: Nicolas Axelrod/Bloomberg)

Thai Economic Conditions Tipped to Worsen as Virus Spreads

Thailand’s economic conditions are expected to deteriorate further this year as the nation battles a resurgence in the coronavirus, according to a national survey.

About 52.2% of the respondents in the study undertaken by Bangkok-based National Institute of Development Administration predict the economy will be even worse in 2021 than it was last year, while 14.6% anticipate an improvement.

At the same time, the impact of Covid-19 may be even more deadly than in 2020, according to 48.1% of the 1,326 respondents in the survey held between Dec. 24-25. Just 28.8% expect it to be less severe, the institute said in a statement released Sunday. Those surveyed were Thais aged 18 and above.

Thailand is set to impose a new set of restrictions on businesses and gatherings in 28 of its worst-affected provinces from Monday to stem the latest flareup in an outbreak that’s infected more than 3,000 people since the middle of December. Bangkok, a city of more than 10 million people, has already closed businesses including pubs, bars, gyms and other entertainment venues besides shuttering schools until the end of the month.

Thai Economic Conditions Tipped to Worsen as Virus Spreads

The central bank at its December policy meeting said gross domestic product probably shrank by 6.6% in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic. At the same gathering, it cut its forecast for this year to growth of 3.2%, from an earlier estimate of 3.6%.

Thailand reported 315 new virus cases on Sunday with 294 of them locally transmitted, according to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration. The nation’s total caseload climbed to 7,694 with the capital Bangkok and the provinces of Samut Sakhon and Rayong the major hotspots.

Samut Sakhon reported 541 new cases in the past 24 hours, mostly among migrant laborers, Kaohoon newspaper reported, citing the province’s public relations office on Sunday. Its latest tally was released after the national numbers were announced earlier in the day.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha has refrained from re-imposing a national lockdown, saying the nation can contain the recent outbreak. Still, the surge in infections is likely to delay plans to reopen the country to tourism with a nationwide state of emergency remaining in place to allow authorities impose restrictions quickly if deemed necessary.

‘Strong Medicine’

The authorities aren’t pushing for a nationwide uniform restrictions as they are seeking to minimize the impact on the community, Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration spokesman Taweesilp Witsanuyotin said at a briefing on Sunday. Provincial authorities will be allowed to impose “tailor-made measures” to contain the outbreak, he said.

“Even though we know that we need strong medicine today, strong medicine has many side effects,” Taweesilp said. “We have learned our lessons from using strong doses across the board earlier. Those who suffer the most are normal people who try to live their lives.”

Thailand may face additional hurdles to reviving its economy from a recurrence of anti-government protests, according to the institute’s survey. While almost 77% of respondents said they expected the political situation to remain chaotic or get worse, 43.2% participants predicted pro-democracy protests will take place again this year.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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