Maskless Thai PM fined as coronavirus cases spike

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BANGKOK, April 26, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – Thailand’s prime minister was
fined for not wearing a mask Monday after new Covid-19 restrictions
came into force to try to halt the country’s spiralling outbreak.

Wearing masks is now compulsory in public spaces in 49 provinces and
the capital, Bangkok — where the latest outbreak has been traced back
to a nightlife district.

Some locations are backing up that requirement with a 20,000 baht
($640) fine.

After a picture of a maskless Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha
attending a meeting emerged on social media Monday, the Bangkok
governor said the premier had been fined 6,000 baht ($190).

“As Bangkok governor, I filed a complaint against the prime minister
who accepted the fine,” Governor Aswin Kwanmuang wrote on Facebook.

Some 2,048 new cases were announced in Thailand on Monday. The day
before, the country recorded its highest single-day death toll of the
pandemic, with 11 fatalities.

Until the latest outbreak, Thailand had managed to keep infections
down thanks to strict travel restrictions and swift action to isolate
confirmed cases.

But there have been complaints about the slow rollout of vaccines,
with the kingdom lagging behind other countries in the region.

“It’s a failure in management from the health ministry,” said
61-year-old restaurant manager Pracha, who only gave his first name.

Prayut said on Facebook the government was trying to source more
doses and ramp up the programme to inoculate 300,000 people a day.

In addition to the mask requirement, authorities in the capital have
closed a raft of venues including cinemas, parks, gyms, swimming
pools, spas and nurseries.

The new restrictions come a week after bars and nightclubs were
ordered closed and restaurants banned from serving alcohol.

Pranee Namrat, a 48-year-old seafood vendor, told AFP she was
frightened the situation would get worse.

“If I got infected… I’m scared of not having a place for
treatment,” she said.

– Outbreaks in Cambodia, Laos –

In neighbouring Cambodia, also in the grip of a new coronavirus
wave, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged factory owners in the
key garment sector to help protect workers.

“The current outbreaks in factories and markets serve as a painful
reminder of the importance of investing in mitigation measures before
cases occur,” Li Ailan, the WHO representative in Cambodia, said in a
statement.

Li urged factory owners to do more temperature screening and
rearrange workshops to allow social distancing.

The capital Phnom Penh has been under lockdown for 12 days — and
the measure has now been extended until May 5, authorities announced
late Monday.

Officials had also previously ordered all wet markets in the city to
close for a two-week period.

Around 1.3 million Cambodians have received at least one dose of the
vaccine. The country, which has a population of 16 million, is using
China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines as well as AstraZeneca.

On Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed to countries “not to
hoard the vaccine more than needed as well as not to use the vaccine
as a political tool”.

Cambodia has reported 10,555 cases in total and 79 deaths including
10 on Saturday — a single-day record for the country.

Laos — which appeared to escape the brunt of the pandemic last year
— is also undergoing a surge, jumping from 58 cases to 436 in less
than a week.

Its capital Vientiane was placed under a snap lockdown last week,
with authorities prohibiting residents from leaving their homes except
for groceries and going to the hospital.