Thai South Emerges as New Virus Hotbed, Imposes More Restrictions

Police question a man at a checkpoint on Phuket island on March 31, 2020.

PHUKET — Local authorities in southern provinces on Thursday introduced new travel restrictions amid an uptick in reported coronavirus cases in the region.

In Songkhla, nine beaches were designated a no-go area from 6pm to 5am, effective today, in a bid to deter large gatherings and possible spread of coronavirus. Residents in Phuket’s Patong Beach neighborhood are also instructed to stay home at all times after new cases are tied to the red-light district there.

Officials in Phuket said they will provide residents with food and water if needed. The island no longer permits non-essential travels in and out of the province; its international airport was also shut down.

Read: Phuket Closes Land and Sea Entry and Exit Points

As of Thursday, Phuket has 88 known infection cases, the highest in the southern region. Around half of the infected figures work in the tourism industry, health officials said.

Phuket’s number is followed by Yala province with 43 cases, Pattani 38 and Songkhla with 29 infections. Eleven southern provinces have a combined infection cases of 248 as of Thursday noon.

Cases in Pattani and Yala increased sharply after residents return from religious ceremonies in Malaysia and Indonesia last month.

Governor of Satun province on Thursday also said Satun residents currently stranded in Malaysia should not seek to return without health certificates.

Those caught crossing the border into the province without going through official checkpoints would be prosecuted and placed in a government-run quarantine center for two weeks, governor Veeranan Pengchan said.

Over the past week, dozens of Thais have been prevented from entering Satun from Malaysia due to their lack of health papers, he added.

The requirement for health certificates and other documents for Thais to return to their homeland continues to be enforced despite a recent lawsuit to the Administrative Court arguing that such measures violate the constitution.