Bangkok, April 26
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was fined 6,000 baht ($190) on Monday for breaching rules aimed at containing the coronavirus by not wearing a face mask, the governor of Bangkok said.
“I informed the prime minister this was a violation of rules,” Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang wrote on his official Facebook page.
The move came after a photograph of Prayuth appeared on his Facebook page showing him not wearing a mask in a meeting. The photograph was later removed.
The prime minister made an inquiry to city hall about the restrictions, which specify that masks should be worn at all times outside residences, prompting his fine, said Aswin.
Meanwhile, authorities in Thailand are imposing fines of up to 20,000 baht ($640) for people who fail to wear face masks in public in 48 provinces, as the government struggles to cope with a new wave of coronavirus cases that is straining the medical system.
The capital, Bangkok, which has the largest number of cases, is also closing more than 30 types of businesses and services, including cinemas, parks, zoos, bars, pools and massage parlours. Gatherings of more than 20 people are banned. Shopping malls and department stores may continue operating, but with abbreviated hours.
Despite rapidly rising numbers, there currently are no nationwide lockdowns, curfews or travel bans, though individual provinces have been allowed to issue their own restrictions, including mandatory quarantines for visitors from other provinces.
Forty-eight of the 76 provinces have imposed fines for not wearing face masks.
Thai health authorities on Monday announced 2,048 new infections and eight new deaths, the fourth day in a row with more than 2,000 new cases. That brought the country’s totals to 57,508 cases and 148 fatalities.
The high number of cases has created shortages of hospital beds and intensive care units. It has also underlined the government’s failure to obtain adequate supplies of vaccines. Less than 2 per cent of Thailand’s 69 million people have been vaccinated.
Thailand has struggled to cope with the new outbreak, which originated in March in nightspots in and around Bangkok, as Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government has been reluctant to impose harsh restrictions that would further hurt businesses already battered by the pandemic.
Apisamai Srirangsan, a spokeswoman for the national Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration, said the government on Thursday will discuss whether to impose additional measures in some areas, including the country’s two major cities, Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Apisamai said finding beds for everyone who tests positive is a problem but the government will stick with its policy of having all patients placed under medical supervision. She said the government is adding more beds to hospitals and setting up more field hospitals, including at stadiums in Bangkok that have been turned into primary care places for patients awaiting spots in hospitals.
Thailand has also banned the entry of visitors from India, with the exception of its own citizens. The ban, to take effect May 1, was announced Monday by the Thai Embassy in New Delhi as India sets daily global records for new infections.
Thai citizens seeking to return home will be allowed in on repatriation flights. Reuters/AP