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Bangkok imposes partial lockdown to combat virus

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    Agence France-Presse

Bangkok, Thailand   /   Sat, January 2, 2021   /   03:20 pm
 Bangkok imposes partial lockdown to combat virus A nearly empty platform is seen at a BTS commuter train station in Bangkok on January 2, 2021, after the capital announced on Saturday partial lockdown measures to deal with a recent uptick in Covid-19 coronavirus cases. (Agence France Presse/Mladen Antonov)

Bangkok's nightlife will go quiet as a ban on bars, nightclubs and restaurant alcohol sales goes into effect Saturday, among a raft of restrictions aimed at curbing the kingdom's rising coronavirus toll.

Thailand initially appeared to have escaped the worst of the virus, registering just under 4,000 total cases in November, despite being the second country to detect an infection in January.

But an outbreak last month at a massive seafood market has spiralled into a resurgence, with infections now detected in 53 of the kingdom's 73 provinces. By Saturday the caseload had jumped to over 7,300. 

In Bangkok, where more than 2,600 active cases have been detected, city authorities acted swiftly and announced a partial lockdown to go into effect Saturday. 

Bars and nightclubs, boxing stadiums, cockfighting rings and massage parlours -- as well as beauty salons and gyms -- will be among a slew of businesses affected.

The capital also announced yesterday that public schools will be closed for two weeks, while more than a dozen virus checkpoints were set up Saturday across the city.

"We don't want to use extreme measures like a lockdown and putting up a curfew, but we need a stronger medicine to prevent the new surge," said Taweesin Visanuyothin, a spokesman for Thailand's Covid-19 taskforce. 

Nationwide restrictions and closures are expected to go into effect from January 4 to February 1, he added, allowing a two-day "grace period" for business owners to prepare.

Authorities worried about inciting alarm nationwide had been reluctant to classify the new emergence of the virus as a "second wave".

But anger resounded across Thai social media Saturday on the renewed restrictions, with business owners expressing frustration with the partial lockdown.

"I comply with the measures strictly, yet I now need to close my business while there are many people scrambling on the skytrain everyday," wrote Aksika Chantarawinji, a spa owner, on the official Facebook page of Bangkok's governor.

Thailand's economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus, and is among the worst-affected in Southeast Asia due to its reliance on tourism and exports.

In Japan, the Tokyo metropolitan government is set to request the central government issue a state of emergency over the coronavirus, sources familiar with the matter said Saturday, following a surge in cases that increased pressure on the capital's medical system.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike is expected to make the request later in the day in a meeting with Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of the government's coronavirus response, they said.

Tokyo logged Thursday a record 1,337 new infections, exceeding the 1,000 mark for the first time since the pandemic began.