14 checkpoints are set up at 14 key main entrances to screen people entering Bangkok. Credit: BMA

Govt decides to impose stringent restriction measures against the rapid spread of Covid-19 in 28 “areas” with maximum control

The latest restriction rules with more stringent measures against the rapid spread of Covid-19 have been officially announced and take effect from 6am today onward in 28 provinces designated as the areas with a maximum control

Two orders signed by PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the CCSA order (1/2022) and the 16th regulation under the Emergency Decree, were published in the Royal Gazette late evening yesterday, lining up eight key restriction measures for 28 provinces designated as areas with a maximum control to follow. Bangkok is included.

They are expected to last one month, or until February 1.

The provinces with new infection cases over 50 since December 17 are initially declared as areas or zones with a maximum control. But the newly designation of areas for disease control under the new orders will also include provinces around the target areas or the buffer zones.

From the initial 10 provinces with a maximum control following their outbreaks, the areas with a maximum control for disease control expand to 28 provinces.

“Because the new round of the Covid-19 outbreaks is widespread with a rapid increase of cases. Several of them are asymptomatic and infected people have covered up their travel records, thus exacerbating the spread of the virus and hampering the disease control efforts. So, the government has to come up with stringent measures to control the situation,” the government reasoned in the orders.

These provinces must strictly abide by the new restriction rules from 6 am today onward. They are;

-A ban on classes and activities in schools and other educational compounds with some few exceptions and permissions considered by authorities in charge of the situation.

-A ban on gatherings or activities that draw crowds such as meetings, seminars, or banquets with some few exceptions or permissions considered by authorities in charge of the situation.

-A ban on entertainment venues such as pubs, bars, or karaoke.

-Controls of services and opening times for some premises and activities such as restaurants, convenient stores, supermarkets, community malls, department stores, shopping centers, convention centers, and exhibition halls. No alcohols are on sale at the premises and take-away would be an option if deemed necessary.

-Further closures of places or activities deemed posing risks following consideration by authorities in charge of the situation.

-Tight screening of inter-provincial travels. People are asked to delay or suspend their travels if not necessary.

-Private firms are asked to initiate work from home for their employees.

-Further measures would be subject to review before tabling for the PM’s consideration.

The “bigger” fight

Dr. Taweesin Visunuyothin, Spokesperson of the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration said during the press briefing today that the measures were tabled before the CCSA’s sub-panels including that from the Pubic Health Ministry, and they were adjusted from the previous version with more flexible rules, especially for daily activities such as dining in restaurants.

The spokesperson conceded that the fight against the disease this time is more serious or “bigger” than the previous round and actually it needs more serious measures than proposed to the PM.

However, the authorities concerned needed to take economic aspects in to account and find the best ways to compromise, hence coming up with the measures proposed.

These, he added, are not the so-called lockdown yet, or at least are not called “lockdown” as it could send impacts on the already weakened economy.

But more stringent measures would be stepped up if the situation is not put under control. The last time the country saw a “strong medicine” like a curfew imposed during the night time, which largely disrupted people’s businesses and activities.

As of yesterday, the number of new local cases hit the new high, with the record at 294, far beyond the peak in the first round, which stood at 188.

The virus has spread to 53 provinces so far, with other 11 provinces being epidemiologically declared as Zone 2 or controlled areas that could turn to areas with a maximum control if more new cases are added in. The total number of cumulative cases stood at 7, 694. Of these, 64 have died.

So far, the government has not yet issued any particular measures for these areas yet.

Traffic officials screen people entering Bangkok at key entrances around the city. Credit: BMA

The priorities

Professor Yong Poovorawan, head of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, said it is unlikely to eliminate the virus in a short period of time, considering the current situation.

What are needed the most at this point are effective disease control and prevention measures to keep the disease under control. If failed, Thailand could soon see four digits of new local cases per day, the professor remarked.

The noted professor has lined up priorities for people to follow in his latest FB post today. First and foremost is prevention, and this can be done by cooperation from the public members by protecting themselves well from the virus such as wearing masks, maintain social distancing, and frequent hand-washing. Last but not least is avoiding visiting risk prone venues.

Second is disease control, under which cooperation from the public members is still required and should be well delivered to support the work of disease control and public health staff.

The measures concerned could be put in order from light to harsh ones, and if necessary, lockdown can also be an option, the professor pointed.

Third is reduction of infection rates. This can be done via tight screening and testing especially in the epicenters of the outbreaks in order to take control of the situation and cut down the infection rates.

Fourth is about disease clearance, which means implemented measures should be maintained as time goes by to ensure that the disease is suppressed or wiped out.

Fifth is about elimination, the state of which could be declared when there is an absence of case reports in at least 28 days, or twice the time of the virus incubation periods.

And last but not least is the virus eradication, which Prof. Yong said, is extremely difficult by now, and people may have to live with it for a long period of time.