City lockdown and night curfew to be enforced in Bangkok and “Dark Red” provinces to stem fast-spreading Delta

Gatherings and risky businesses in the capital and its five neighbouring provinces will face stricter restrictions additionally as the Delta variant is taking over infections in the capital

The Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has held an hours-long meeting since the morning today along with its senior medical advisors from renowned medical institutes before deciding to enforce city lockdown and night curfew in ten provinces in the Dark Red zone, including Bangkok, in a bid to curb the fast spread of the Delta variant as it is taking over the UK’s Alpha in the city.

The decision came after it had decided to impose the so-called targeted lockdown on constructions camps in the city just last week or so, from June 28 onwards, to try to stem the spread of the variant, which was reported to be spreading more widely than late May, when it first emerged among construction workers in one construction camp in the middle of the city. (Read: Restrictions in Bangkok tightened after one week of relaxation as community infection widespread and ICU beds almost full)

The fast spread of the Delta variant had exacerbated the situation, which has been hit by the also fast-spreading UK’s Alpha since early April. They then overwhelmed the city’s medical capacity as ICU beds and ventilators had almost been used up by severe cases of Covid-19 patients, as reported by the Medical Services Department in late June.

In spite of the June 28 restrictions, the situation, however, has not improved since. As of today, the number of new daily infection cases has hit a new high, standing at 9,276, while the number of new deaths is at 72.

Under the latest regulation (Regulation No. 27 issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005)), which will be in force from Monday onwards, Bangkok residents and those in nine neighbouring provinces will be banned from unnecessary travel and a night curfew will be imposed from 9 pm to 4 am. But checkpoints will be set up to screen their travels from tomorrow right away. On-site schools in these areas will also be banned in these provinces, leaving only online learning to be undertaken.

The capital and its five neighbouring provinces, in particular, will face additional restrictions. Work from home will be enforced while only necessary businesses and facilities will be allowed to be opened within a limited time.

Malls and supermarkets, convenience stores, banks, drugstores, restaurants without dining-in and beverage shops, and public parks will be opened until 8 pm. Public transportation will be on service only from 3 am to 9 pm. Thai massage shops and spas will be closed, and gatherings of more than five persons will not be allowed.

“The measures are based on three principles; restriction on mobility and gathering of people, and you may call these as lockdown. Then it comes to a curfew, and last but not least is about mitigating the impacts,” said Dr. Apisamai Srirungson, the CCSA assistant spokeswoman.

Thailand imposed a nationwide lockdown and curfew against Covid-19 only once during the first round of the outbreak last year, and this is the second time it has imposed the measures again_to a lesser extent.

Besides the additional restrictions, Bangkok and its neighbouring provinces will also see medical facilities scaled up to catch up with the rise of the number of infections. Dr. Apisamai said concerned authorities will try to facilitate more access to rapid tests on the disease among the city’s residents.

More field hospitals as well as community and home isolation are being developed and put in place to receive minor cases. And vaccination has been refocused with the elderly and those with seven chronic diseases being the priorities.

For the other zones, they will still adhere to the previous instructions. Concerned authorities in the zones, however, are urged to put their guard up against those travelling out of the Dark Red zone. They should place their surveillance and checkpoints immediately from tomorrow onwards as well, the CCSA assistant spokeswoman said.

To facilitate the new restrictions, the Covid-19 situation administration zones have also been readjusted once again. Besides the Dark Red zone which will see the same ten provinces including the capital placed under it, the other zones, Red and Orange, will see more provinces placed under them, while the Yellow zone will see few provinces placed under it.

The  13th Emergency Decree declaration, meanwhile, will be renewed from August 1 to September 30.

The fourth wave

Clinical Professor Emeritus Dr. Udom Kachintorn, an advisor to the CCSA, earlier revealed that the organisation’s advisory body on public health and deans of top ten medicine faculties of the country had held the meeting to discuss the situation.

The respected doctor said the Delta variant started to show itself up as a fast-spreading variant, 40% faster than Alpha, around June to July, when it took around 30% share of infection cases nationwide, and 50% in Bangkok.

“We consider that this is very fast,” said Dr. Udom during the press conference on Tuesday.

Dr. Udom said if the infection rate continued like this, Delta would become the dominant variant within one or two months, in line with the world’s trend. The variant, he said, could cause lung infections faster, within three to five days, compared to seven to ten days by Alpha. The more patients succumbed to the disease, the higher the need for serious medical facilities and services especially ICU beds and ventilators is, he said.

“Our health system cannot continue if the situation is allowed to continue like this,” warned Dr. Udom, adding the situation was critical both in Bangkok and the upcountry.

Bangkok, for instance, had ICU beds around 230 under the normal circumstance, but because of Covid-19, medical staff have tried to deal with the situation by extending their capacity and expanding the facilities, increasing the ICU beds over 400 already, Dr. Udom gave an example. The acceptable new infection cases should be limited only around 500 to 1,000 a day, he said.

Personally, he said, the outbreak has entered the fourth round already, citing the involvement of the new variant, whereas the outbreak has reached communities where contact tracing becomes almost impossible.

The noted doctor said up to 60-70% of new infection cases are from close contact within families, and 20 or 40% from colleagues at work and customers. Public health or personal disease control measures, therefore, are essential, he pointed.

Covid-19 vaccines, at the same time, could help prevent severe symptoms and deaths although their protection rates are still varied, Dr. Udom stressed.