BANGKOK: Checkpoints have been set up on the roads around Bangkok and throughout the country, while ticket sales for national bus routes have been suspended by the state transport company.

Thailand could be heading towards a 24-hour curfew or lockdown in the coming days. On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam indicated that Thai returnees from foreign countries can still return home from foreign countries. A lockdown would mean an end to this and that the best approach would be such a curfew which would be announced by the appropriate authorities. However, he cautioned that no decision has yet been made to impose such a lockdown and that even if it was, it would not hinder the movement of essential goods.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has indicated that a 24-hour curfew with a limited window for the public to venture out to buy necessities may be the right instrument to implement a lockdown which may now be under consideration. (Inset left) Overnight, there were checkpoints in Bangkok and at 350 other locations throughout the country testing travellers.

On Thursday, Thailand’s state-owned transport company announced the suspension of all national bus ticket sales until at least April 30th. The announcement was made by Jirasek Yaovatsakul.

It comes as Thai authorities have also set up checkpoints since yesterday at 7 locations around Bangkok including Chaeng Watthana Road and 350 locations throughout the country to stop, question and test travellers.

The teams manning the checkpoints include police, soldiers and state officials.

Rail transit worker tests positive.  MRT station closes in Nonthaburi on Thursday morning

Early on Thursday morning, a Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT) rail station in Nonthaburi, within the Greater Bangkok area, was closed after news came through that an employee who became sick on Monday had tested positive for the coronavirus.

These developments come as more businesses in the Greater Bangkok area and Thailand are closed for the first time today.

People flock to government offices for supports

One of the growing concerns following these business closures is the number of people flocking to government offices to enquire about economic support measures announced on Tuesday by the Deputy Prime Minister for economic affairs, Somkid Jatusripitak.

The Disease Control Department at the Ministry of Public Health on Thursday also issued alerts in relation to key venues including an examination hall in Nonthaburi and particular passenger bus routes used by those among the latest to be tested positive for the virus.

The country announced 111 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday bringing the total number to 1,045 but deaths from the highly infectious disease in Thailand still remain low at only 4 people to date.

Deputy PM says 24 hours curfew the best approach

This comes as there is mounting speculation that a lockdown will be announced, at some point, by the government. Up to now, sources have indicated that this was something officials were trying to avoid. 

On Wednesday, the Deputy Prime Minister Wissnau Krea-ngam said that the best approach would be a 24-hour curfew with allotted time windows for people to go out to purchase food and necessities.

Country now closed to foreigners

He indicated that the government’s current measures still allowed scope to returnees to Thailand from foreign countries arriving home in trickling numbers because of onerous restrictions.

This would end with a more stringent lockdown order.

The government has already moved to ban entry to Thailand to all foreigners except those with work permits, diplomats or specialised workers.

Directives from the government are advisory with actions to restrict travel now being taken

For now, the government’s directives are advisory but come with a strengthened moral authority given the crisis that the country is facing.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu warned that those over 70, under 5 and people with diabetes are urged not to venture outside under any circumstances during this emergency.

The current operation of nationwide checkpoints and the suspension of ticket sales on bus routes are efforts by the government to constrict movement before a curfew is announced either at the national or provincial level.

Further reading:

Emergency centre led by the Prime Minister takes power on Thursday to fight the virus in Thailand

Minor Group boss calls on Prayuth to take decisive action to lock down Thailand and protect people’s lives

Authorities ready to control movement and lockdown as public is urged not to leave Bangkok

Government declares a state of emergency with sweeping powers to curb the spread of the virus