Faced with a surge in COVID-19 deaths – 11 in recent days – nearly 50 provinces nationwide including Bangkok have mandated mask-wearing in public and imposed a hefty THB20,000 (US$636) fine for violators.
Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Chiang Mai, Chonburi and Phuket are among the 48 provinces nationwide so far to threaten to fine anyone who goes unmasked outside their residences.
On Saturday, a few motorcycle taxi riders in Nonthaburi province were busted by cops for not wearing masks. They told police they didn’t have THB20,000 to pay, so they were ordered to do pushups on the spot, instead.
Effective yesterday through at least May 2, closing time moved up an hour at most retali outlets. All shopping malls and department stores in Bangkok and 17 other “red zone” provinces will only open 11am to 8pm, while food sellers within and without may remain open until 9pm. Convenience stores will now be open 5am to 10pm.
Bangkok, where hundreds of COVID-19 cases have been detected every day for weeks already, ordered the closure of public parks, gyms, swimming pools, museums, cinemas, public libraries among other venues until May 9.
Health officials worldwide have found little evidence of outdoor transmission; however, the methods by which Thailand weathered the first year of the pandemic with little impact have seemed less effective since the third-wave erupted in March. It’s believed to be fueled by a far more virulent strain of the virus first discovered in the United Kingdom.
The failure to curb COVID-19 infections in Thailand has amplified calls for controversial Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvurakul to resign. Currently exploding is a petition on the recently restored Change.org that’s drawn more than 155,000 signatures and counting since it was posted two days ago.