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Thailand announces new restrictions amid COVID-19 surge


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Thailand announced additional COVID-19 pandemic restrictions amid a surge in cases threatening the country’s good standing in combating widespread outbreaks of the virus.

On Monday, government officials ordered the closure of Bangkok hostess bars, gambling venues and massage parlors starting Tuesday until Jan. 4. It will allow bars and restaurants to remain open with an order to close at midnight and enforce social distancing, The Associated Press reported.

Thailand recorded 155 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, a small spike in comparison to other countries with rapidly climbing case numbers. It marks a notable rise for Thailand, which has a well-regarded health program and a population that strictly abides by pandemic safety measures.

The government’s COVID-19 coordinating center reported 134 cases were local transmissions. Eleven cases reportedly came from migrant workers at a fish market in Bangkok, and 10 were found in state quarantine zones.

More than 20 percent of Thailand’s 6,440 confirmed cases since the outset of the pandemic reportedly derived from migrant workers in Samut Sakhon.

Officials have warned the seafood market outbreak along with a cluster of cases near a gambling venue in an eastern province could threaten to undo the country’s progress in maintaining low rates of infections.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha promised Tuesday there would not be any travel restrictions for the New Year’s holiday, though he added that “there will be measures put in place in many provinces.”

The prime minister gave his address from the Rayong province as officials there announced a widespread shutdown of schools and department stores and takeaway-only restrictions for restaurants.

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesperson and medical expert at the COVID-19 coordinating center, told the AP cases could rise to more than 10,000 in January if the government does not act now to limit the spread.

If officials implement moderate measures, infections could rise to 8,000 by the end of January. Strict pandemic safety rules enforced would likely not cause more than 1,000 new cases to emerge, Visanuyotin added.

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