BANGKOK: The minister’s decision is believed to be based on the evaluation of experts. They warn of 8 high-risk areas including Bangkok, in particular, places popular with foreigners and tourists. The experts say if no action is taken, there could be a localised outbreak with over 2,000 cases by May.
Thailand’s Minister of Public Health has disclosed that he intends to propose the closure of all bars and entertainment venues to protect the country against the possibility of a breakout of the coronavirus.
The Thai Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, said on Saturday that he is in favour of ramping up measures to protect the kingdom against a phase 3 breakout of the disease that is currently wreaking havoc in European countries and the United Kingdom.
The measures that Mr Anutin has in mind would involve the closure of all bars and entertainment venues including nightclubs, go-go bars and live music performances.
Minster to present his proposals to the PM
He told the press that he would be advocating such a course when he speaks with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan ocha on Monday. The closure would be a temporary measure.
Secret report warns of a local outbreak in provinces popular with foreigners in Thailand
On Saturday, it was reported that a Thai news agency had sight of a report which suggested such an approach fearing that Bangkok and 7 other provinces are at risk of a localised breakout of the disease.
The experts, in their report, summarised that if action to isolate people in these areas is not taken, then the infection numbers locally could rise to over 2,000 cases by May.
Emergency centre advising the government
The report is the product of a secret emergency centre working to coordinate the response to the virus and advise the government.
Today also, a leading physician’s body, the Thoracic Society, warned the government that it believed that an outbreak was underway with rising numbers reported in recent days.
Death knell for tourism and the ‘farang’ party
Such a decision could, undoubtedly, be the final death knell for tourism in Thailand’s tourist hotspots although hopefully a temporary one.
In recent weeks, Thai tourism has fallen back on its first and most hardcore market, older western foreigners coming to Thailand for sunshine, beer and of course, the nightlife.
Minster saw first-hand last week how western foreigners are the last bastion of the tourism market
The minister made such observation himself on Friday on a now-closed Twitter account when he noted disapprovingly that Chiang Mai was almost deserted of Chinese visitors and dominated by western foreigners.
Minster Anutin then generated controversy when he went on to warn the Thai public that these western visitors dressed in a dirty manner and showered irregularly.
He tweeted that they were a risk to the Thai public because none of them wore a face mask unlike 90% of Thai people.
The call is backed by the experts
However, the minister’s proposal to close the bars, for now, is one that is believed to be backed by experts.
He told his audience on Saturday that he believed that there would not be a general breakout of the disease in the kingdom. He felt that this proposed action was necessary as these centres of activity pose the greatest risk.
11 Thai nationals were infected at the end of February after two nights out. They contracted the virus from a friend through shared glasses used for drinking.
The minister also said that the government would have to curtail further already emasculated Songkran activities including local festivals as the country approaches the period of the highest risk.