Bangkok and 28 Provinces to be Designated ‘Red Zones’

Worshippers pray at Bangkok's City Pillar Shrine on Jan. 1, 2021.

BANGKOK — The government on Saturday said Bangkok and 28 provinces will be declared a “Red Zone” where travel and businesses will be severely curtailed, following a new coronavirus fatality and confirmed 216 infections.

Areas put under the “Red Zone” will be subject to intense public health measures, the COVID-19 Situation Administration spokesman Taweesin Wisanuyothin said, citing the need to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Employees will be asked to work from home, business hours adjusted, large gatherings banned, and inter-provincial travel discouraged.

Although no curfew will be announced yet, Taweesin suggests more measures could be imposed if the situation does not improve in the days and weeks ahead. He added that the health authorities can no longer trace the origin of at least one infection in Bangkok.

“There could be a lockdown, but we won’t call it a lockdown,” said Taweesin during the news conference.

The first round of restrictions in the Red Zones will last for a month and will likely take effect on Monday, pending PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s formal approval, Taweesin said.

The move came after Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang late Friday night ordered the temporary shutdown of pubs, bars, schools and universities, flea market, sports grounds, entertainment venues and more in a bid to control the pandemic. The capital reported 18 new infections on Saturday.

One additional death from the coronavirus was recorded on Saturday, pushing the total death toll to 64.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri also said PM Prayut is concerned that some people are not cooperating with safety measures to curb the coronavirus, which led to more infections.

Anucha said the premier has urged people to wear masks, maintain social distancing, check-in when entering malls and buildings through the government’s Thai Chana tracing application, and avoid crowded areas.

In a related development, Samut Sakhon Gov. Veerasak Vichitsangsri, who tested positive for the coronavirus last week, remains in critical condition at Siriraj Hospital.

The 59-year-old governor continues to rely on a ventilator, though the level of oxygen in his blood is improving and his overall condition is more stable on Saturday, Prasit Wattanapha, Dean of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, told reporters.

Veerasak’s wife was also infected with the coronavirus but she is not suffering from any severe illness, Prasit said.