BANGKOK (Reuters) -Thai authorities are stepping up travel restrictions and other measures to combat a rapidly spreading third wave of COVID-19 infections as the country logged 11 deaths on Sunday, a daily record.
Although Thailand had success in limiting the spread of the virus last year, a new outbreak driven by the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant has resulted in over 24,000 cases and 46 deaths in just 25 days.
The Southeast Asian nation will slow the issuance of travel documents for foreign nationals from India due to the outbreak of a coronavirus variant called B.1.617, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government’s COVID-19 taskforce.
“For foreigners from India entering Thailand, right now we will slow this down,” he said but added that 131 Thai nationals in India already registered to travel in May will still be allowed into the country.
Quarantine for all arrivals has also been extended to 14 days from 10 days until the situation improves, a health ministry official said.
Thailand reported 2,438 new coronavirus cases and 11 new deaths on Sunday – a second straight day of record deaths.
Other measures announced this weekend include the closure of venues in Bangkok such as parks, gyms, cinemas and day-care centres from April 26 through May 9. Bangkok also introduced a fine of up to 20,000 baht ($635) for people who fail to wear face masks in public.
Shopping malls remain open but the Thai Retailers Association has restricted opening hours in Bangkok and 17 other provinces.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also said on his Facebook page on Saturday that provincial governors can close public venues and impose curfews if necessary to stop the virus spreading.
The surge in cases has prompted concern over the number of hospital beds, particularly as government policy is to admit anyone testing positive for the novel coronavirus, even those without symptoms.
Health officials have said there are still over 20,000 available beds nationwide.
Thailand has had 55,460 infections and 140 fatalities to date.
($1 = 31.4000 baht)
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Michael Perry and Edwina Gibbs)