PM Prayut hints at suspending public transport to curb virus spread
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha hinted today that he might order a scale-down or suspension of public transport if the rate of new COVID-19 infections does not show a sustained decrease.
He said that he might have to prevent people from travelling, even though intra and inter provincial travel has reduced by about 40%, following the declaration of a national state of emergency last week. The Prime Minister and senior health officials believe that reduction in commuting and travel should be around 90% in order to have a significant impact on the infection rate.
Prayut also insisted that the state of emergency will stay and a weekly review is being made. He also suggested that if the situation doesn’t improve, the state of emergency could be extended for three months.
Regarding the 5,000 baht monthly cash handout for people affected by business closures, the Prime Minister made it clear that not all 20 million people who have applied for the money will qualify.
He warned that the state will demand a refund from anyone who receives the money based on a fraudulent application.
For those who miss out, he said the Government might introduce alternative measures to help them through the crisis.
Government spokeswoman Mrs. Narumon Pinyosinwat said today that the Prime Minister has instructed the army and the Interior Ministry to help local officials enforce the lockdown measures in Phuket, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, where the number of new infections is steadily increasing.
Travel in and out of these four provinces has been banned, unless official permission is granted. In Phuket, travel on and off the resort island by land or sea is prohibited, with the exception of vehicles carrying essential items and construction materials. Air travel will be suspended from April 10th.
The Prime Minister, said Mrs Narumon, has instructed TV stations to reduce the coverage of boxing matches and police are to ensure that all motorcycle taxi drivers wear face masks.
The Prime Minister has also ordered the Customs Department not to levy import taxes on surgical face masks, PPE gowns and medical equipment needed in the fight against the virus. The country’s Food and Drug Administration and the Medical Science Department have been told to fast-track the screening process for such items, to speed up their distribution to where they are urgently needed.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Ministry will tighten the control of egg prices and suspend egg exports until the shortage has eased.