JAKARTA, Indonesia

The Thai government has decided to tighten the country’s lockdown starting on Monday following a sharp spike in the number of coronavirus cases. 

In the Royal Gazette released on Sunday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced that the new restrictions will be applied to 28 red-zone provinces, including Bangkok.

The use of buildings at schools and educational institutions in these areas was banned to conduct any activities which are likely to draw crowds, except for online learning, charities, and public services with permission from provincial governors.

Thai authorities have asked residents in the red zone to avoid travel outside the province, unless absolutely necessary. Police will be deployed to inspect vehicles that leave and enter the red-zone provinces.

To reduce the risk of transmission at offices, the business sector is required to set working hours arrangements for employees or encourage employees to work from home.

Meanwhile, all shopping centers, malls, department stores, exhibition centers, conference rooms, and super markets will remain open under new guidelines set by the COVID-19 Task Force.

Also, high-risk activities, such as meetings, seminars, and banquets, are prohibited in all red-zone provinces.

Thailand on Monday recorded 745 new coronavirus cases, with 709 of them local transmissions, bringing the total to 8,439.

This has marked the country’s daily record since the first COVID-19 case was reported in February last year.

Bangkok to ban dine-in services

The Bangkok provincial government will prohibit all restaurants from offering a dine-in service to customers at certain hours starting from Jan. 5.

The prime minister on Monday afternoon said he has repealed the Bangkok City Hall’s order to ban dine-in restaurants from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. He announced that dine-in services will be banned from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. instead.

Customers can still eat at restaurants outside these hours, but sales and consumption of alcohol inside the restaurant will be prohibited.

In an open letter to the prime minister, President of Thai Restaurant Association Thaniwan Kulamongkol warned that banning costumers from eating at restaurants will cost the industry around 100 billion baht ($3.3 billion).

“We feel upset about what happened, since the COVID-19 outbreak is caused by gambling dens and entertainment venues, not restaurants that strictly comply with public health standards,” said Thaniwan.

* Writing by Maria Elisa Hospita from Anadolu Agency’s Indonesian-language service in Jakarta.

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