BANGKOK: Suvarnabhumi Airport on Thursday saw its lowest level of passengers since it opened. There were less than 10,000 arrivals on over 190 flights, some with as little as 2 passengers. This was even before stringent new measures came into force on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, at Don Mueang Airport, all departures on the board showed red as internal flights also began shutting down within Thailand. 

The British Ambassador, Brian Davidson, warned UK nationals in Thailand on Saturday that time is running out to fly home and that the current disruption was likely to last for many months. It comes as the Governor of Bangkok, Aswin Kwanmuang, announced the partial closure of all shopping centres and malls except for food outlets in the city as the country announced a record number of 89 infections, the 5th such record in 7 days. Meanwhile, the Thai Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan ocha, has been advised by leading medical experts in the kingdom to issue lockdown orders for all cities and urban areas but has demurred for now based on legal concerns. He has indicated a preference to gradually introduce measures. However, his spokeswoman on Saturday made it clear that at the appropriate time, the government would move to introduce the most stringent provisions if required.

UK Ambassador Brian Davidson on a video released on Friday for UK nationals living in Thailand and tourists. He described current events in Thailand and the United Kingdom as ‘unprecedented’ and said that flights to the UK were closing and that the disruption could last for months. Bangkok’s Governor Aswin Kwanmuang (inset left) announced the closure of all shopping malls until at least April 12th. Thailand’s Public Health Ministry announced 89 new cases on Saturday, the 5th record in 7 days as the disease spreads and rises. Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul (inset right), said on Friday that a full lockdown could be avoided if the public co-operates.

Thailand announced another record number of infections on Saturday. It was the 5th record number of infections since last week with increasing records on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and today.

89 new infections were recorded bringing the total to 411. While many were linked to the various clusters including a boxing stadium, a group tour from visiting a mosque and other prior connections, there were no less than 38 cases of new unrelated infections.

12 cases related to new arrivals in the kingdom from other countries, some were people who had visited pubs, 6 were drivers and 20 were still being investigated.

The growing numbers being revealed and the growing inability to trace the infections are all telltale signs that the situation is moving inexorably from one of controlled local transmission to widespread transmission.

Thailand will go into lockdown if a widespread breakout occurs, the Prime Minister said last week

Last week, the PM stated categorically that Thailand would be locked down if this happens, forcing authorities to declare a Phase 3 outbreak.

This is already the situation according to some leading physicians.

Last week, Dr Suwannachai Watanayingcharoenchai, the director-general of the Department of Disease Control, warned that if the current situation persists then Thailand is facing a ‘vast and uncontrollable’ epidemic.

It is still getting worse.

Disease numbers are rising and spread is reaching into the provinces even though 80% are in Bangkok

Of the total number of cases now in the country, 80% are still contained within the Greater Bangkok area.

Despite this, there is evidence of the disease spreading into the provinces. A map of the Covid 19 infections in the kingdom is being made available daily by the World Health Organisation which is, however, approximately 24 hours behind Thai government updates.

A link is shown here for your information:

View World Health Organisation’s update on Covid 19 virus infection reports on Thailand here

UK ambassador warns that flights home may end in one week and may be disrupted for some time

The British Ambassador to Thailand HMA Brian Davidson issued an update to all UK expats in Thailand and tourists in the kingdom on Friday.

He said that this was an ‘unprecedented’ time for both Thailand and the United Kingdom.

He has pointed out that any UK national seeking to fly back to the United Kingdom should act now to have any chance of finding a flight suggesting that availability is already very limited.

It is becoming increasingly clear that flights in and out of the kingdom are being suspended as airlines react to the deteriorating situation.

Please click here to view the UK ambassadors timely video briefing for UK nationals on the current situation in Thailand

It is anticipated that this week, up to the end of March, it will be increasingly difficult to find a flight out of Thailand to the UK and many other western countries. It may be the last opportunity for some time.

UK Embassy gives out hotline numbers 

The British ambassador and the UK embassy has handed out some hotline numbers which are +66(0)2 305 8333 for UK nationals in Thailand and 020 7008 1500 for families in the UK tracking loved ones or the dwindling few still contemplating travel to the kingdom.

We have also provided a link to the embassy website below.

Ambassador urges UK nationals to follow Thai and UK government’s advice diligently online 

Ambassador Davidson has urged all UK nationals in Thailand to regularly check on official advice from the UK and Thai governments and to follow the guidance given carefully.

He has also asked UK nationals in Thailand to begin now to explore and investigate their existing health insurance policies to establish that they are covered against the virus.

Finally, the ambassador has told UK nationals in the kingdom that the current emergency is likely to last for ‘many months’ including the disruption to normal air services.

Thai nationals in the UK, USA, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and across the globe cannot come home

The situation also applies to flights into Thailand with many Thai nationals living in western countries such as the UK, USA, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, France, Germany and Norway reporting it is extremely difficult to both find a flight and comply with the Thai government’s burdensome regulations. 

Many observers now believe that the onerous regulations announced in recent days (see links below) are, in fact, a de facto ban on all incoming passengers to the kingdom before a blanket ban is finally imposed as with other Asian countries.

Situation akin to war breaking out

The growing emergency is akin to the outbreak of war and in many ways, it is.

A war against a deadly viral invader that is right now beginning to occupy Thailand from the capital and spreading its tentacles. The scale and suffering seen in China, Italy and Spain should inform us.

Screens show red at Don Mueang on Saturday

Over the weekend, many airlines in Thailand announced the suspension of domestic air routes until the end of April.

The flight departure board at Don Mueang Airport on Saturday simply showed red with all flights cancelled.

The beginning of a lockdown in Bangkok is also prompting many Thai families to move home from the capital which could be a problem for the government in the coming weeks if, and this is very likely, a full-scale breakout emerges.

Lowest levels of inward traffic at Suvarnabhumi Airport in history this week as skyways close

On Thursday, Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport announced its lowest level of traffic in its history since it opened in 2006.

Less than 10,000 passengers arrived on over 190 flights, some of them with as little as 2 travellers.

Traffic into the airport this week is reported to be down by at least 85%.

Thailand, for now, is closing its doors including an instruction by the Minister of the Interior, Anupong Paochinda, in the last 24 hours to close all non-essential crossings with neighbouring countries just leaving a handful in place.

The border with Malaysia is already sealed.

Bangkok’s governor shuts down shopping malls

On Saturday, Bangkok’s Governor, Aswin Kwanmuang, announced the ‘partial’ closure of all shopping malls as well as an extended range of retail outlets and commercial centres in the Greater Bangkok area administered by the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority.

Thailand is home to some of the most expensive shopping malls in the world catering to an ultra-wealthy elite.

National government surprised by the move by the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority to shut down malls

The news appeared to come as a surprise to the national government. Following a press release to a reporters group online, the story was published but was later questioned as false by Ms Narumon Pinyosinwat, the government spokeswoman. 

She initially told media outlets that the government was considering a range of new steps in association with key ministries, its advisory panels and provincial governors.

She said that no such decision had yet been made.

However, the Governor went ahead and made his announcement official with a live Facebook broadcast but emphasised that it was a partial closure.

All pharmacies, food outlets and restaurants providing takeout services may stay open.

Some panic buying in supermarkets

‘For malls, only the areas that sell food and goods that are used in daily life will be open,’ he announced on the social media broadcast. 

He also pointed out that markets which sell fresh food will also be allowed to open. However, all places which involve the consumption of food on-site were ordered to close.

The shutdown will extend until at least April 12th next.

This announcement caused an outbreak of panic buying at supermarkets but the Governor gave a personal assurance that supplies of food or groceries would not be impacted under any circumstances.

Kingdom is moving ‘step by step’ into lockdown

Thailand is inexorably moving into lockdown mode despite the vacillation of government leaders including the Prime Minister Prayuth Chan ocha and the Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul.

This may be driven by the best of intentions and perhaps some sort of choreography to avoid creating public shock or confusion. We have seen how even relatively minor announcements, so far, can cause this.

But time is running out.

Evidence from France and the UK shows us this week that half measures will not work against this enemy. The pitiful efforts of Italian and European Union authorities at the beginning of that country’s harrowing ordeal also serve as a warning.

Minster says full lockdown can be avoided

At the end of the week, Minster Anutin said a full lockdown could be avoided if the public fully cooperated with authorities.

However, the Thai public, in a NIDA poll published by the Bangkok Post newspaper on Saturday, indicated that it supported a lockdown to beat the virus with over 67% supporting that option.

On Friday night, the government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat confirmed that the PM is currently reviewing the situation and the measures announced this week.

Medical experts have urged the government to lock down cities and urban centres immediately

She revealed that General Prayuth had met with leading doctors and medical experts at Government House on Friday.

They advised him that the country would be facing a severe deterioration in the situation in the next month with a widespread transmission a high likelihood.

Ms Narumon said doctors had urged the PM to lock down Thailand’s largest population centres without delay and if possible to restrict personal movement except for essential public service employees such as the police, military, health services and civic administration.

Prime Minister demurred citing legal concerns

It is reported that General Prayuth demurred on this occasion citing the legal situation. 

However, his spokeswoman, Ms Narumon, on Friday did emphasise that right now the government was acting on a step by step basis to address the escalating number of infections.

She said that when required, the government would not flinch to implement tough measures when the time was right.

She explained that, for now, the PM wanted to avoid as much hardship as possible for the Thai public.

‘We’re ready to announce the most intense measures when the time comes,’ she said. ‘The administration’s priority is ensuring the safety of Thai people.’

Prayuth urges unity and an end to political bickering saying now is the time for unity facing such a threat

The prime minister has also called for unity at this time in fighting what he described as a national threat saying that now is not the time for political infighting.

He said that the Thai people must face the challenge together.

No time for pessimism in the face of this challenge

It remains to be seen when things will reopen again as the kingdom prepares to wage an all-out war with the coronavirus, Covid 19, that is ravaging the world and will undoubtedly change it. 

This is a time to face a very real challenge square on but it is not a time for pessimism or panic. That will only heighten the danger.

Further reading:

Mounting protest over new airline rules for flights to Thailand amid calls for an urgent lockdown

New travel orders will make flying to Thailand very onerous for all passengers from Sunday

Thailand faces lockdown if Phase 3 breaks out as the numbers infected more than treble in 1 week

Bars and massage parlours ordered to close in Bangkok and Pattaya as officials say virus is still local

Another record rise in infections on Monday as top virologist predicts widespread transmission in Thailand

Fears that Thailand could be on the verge of a phase 3 breakout with 32 new infections in 1 day

Anutin is proposing to close all bars and music venues including nightclubs and go gos

Thailand extends quarantine rule for western countries including the US and the UK over virus

Thai Deputy PM Anutin warns the public to be wary of dirty white western tourists who don’t shower

Contact the UK Embassy in Bangkok here