Lockdown to be in full force in Dark Red zone tomorrow onwards

The government has decided to further tighten the so-called semi-lockdown imposed last week by barring people in the Dark Red zone from leaving home unnecessarily while domestic travels in the zone will be almost grounded

After one week of imposing the semi-lockdown, which has seen strict restrictions against people’s movements in and out of the Dark Red zone_the maximum and strict control zone covering Bangkok and its peripheries and other four lower southern provinces, the numbers of new daily infection cases and new deaths have still been inclining steeply, with the weekend’s new highs beyond 10,000 and 100 for the first time.

To try to improve the situation, the government has decided to enforce full lockdown over the zone, with the latest regulation (Regulation No. 28 issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005)) published on the Royal Gazette yesterday and will be in effect tomorrow onwards. It will last at least 14 days, or until August 2.

The move, seen as even stricter than the restrictions imposed in the first round of the Covid-19 outbreak where the country faced a curfew nationwide for the first time, will see people in the Dark Red zone, which now has also expanded to other three provinces of Chonburi, Chachoengsao, and Ayutthaya, barred from leaving their places unnecessarily. Full work from home will also be enforced for workplaces of both private and public entities.

Unlike the first round, these stay-at-home measures are essentially mandatory this time. People will be allowed to go outside only for necessary purposes such as buying food, seeing doctors, or being on duty. Apart from these measures, they will have to deal with other strict measures including a night curfew from 9 pm to 4 am, early closure of shops and malls, strict travels in and out of the zone, and others.

The government said it wished to try to discourage people in the zone from travels and leaving their places. The current records have shown that new infection cases have largely resulted from the community and household infections as the disease is generally brought back home by those spending time outside, the government reasoned.

So, it wished to use the measures to suppress this prime cause of new infections to try to lower down the infection rate, which is spurred by the fast-spreading Delta variant.

“The purpose of these measures is meant to suppress the activity, which is a prime cause of infections this time, especially in Bangkok and its peripheries as well as other provinces under the same zone. They are experiencing an inclining number of infections,, the situation where high-risk people are at home, but they are found to have been infected by those spending time outside. Vaccination has been expedited for them but herd immunity takes some time. So, we need to slow down the rate of infection by suppressing any activity, which causes or poses risks on high infection,” the regulation notes the reason of the government in enforcing these new measures.

Director of the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) and secretary-general of the National Security Council, General Natthapon Nakpanich, confirmed during the meeting with senior media representatives on Sunday that these measures are mandatory, not voluntary based on “requests” like before.

He cited the scenario that if nothing was done this time, the country could see a high number of new infections over the next few months to the point that it could force the government to enforce the total lockdown like China’s Wuhan.

While travelling in and out of the zone has already been strict for the residents in the zone, domestic air travels in and out of the zone will also be restricted, leaving an option only for necessary flights, including the government’s promotional routes. At this point, only international flights have not been restricted, or in other words, the government has not yet closed down the whole country.

Dr. Opas Karnkawinphong, Director General of the Disease Control Department, projected over the weekend that if the infection trend is allowed to continue like it is, there would be “a great number of new infections and deaths” over the next three or four months, and curbs on people’s movements were desperately needed.

The Covid-19 infection, he said, has already been family-based, and he strongly recommended members in the same families to take strict personal disease control measures to protect themselves such as mask-wearing while spending time together in the same compounds.

The government last week had imposed the city lockdown and night curfew in ten provinces in the Dark Red zone, Bangkok included, in a bid to curb the fast spread of the Delta variant as it is taking over the UK’s Alpha in the city. (Read: City lockdown and night curfew to be enforced in Bangkok and “Dark Red” provinces to stem fast-spreading Delta)

The decision came after it had decided to impose the so-called targeted lockdown on constructions camps in the city just a week before, 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 virus spread prompted 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 before the government decided to impose strict measures against them, but to no avail at this point.

As of today, the number of new daily infection cases has hit a new high, standing at 11,784, while the number of new deaths is recorded at 81.