Prayut Threatens to Ban All Public Transport to Stop Pandemic

Grounded planes at Don Mueang International Airport.
Grounded planes at Don Mueang International Airport.

BANGKOK — Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday said he may decide to shut down all public transport if the coronavirus epidemic continues to spread in the country.

Speaking in a news conference broadcast online after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Gen. Prayut warned that he will escalate travel restriction measures designed to contain the outbreak if the number of confirmed cases in Thailand keeps rising. The country counted at least 1,651 infections so far.

“Many people are concerned about the movement of people. There are calls to close or stop it, but we need to see the consequences that follow as well,” Prayut said. “I ordered public transport operators to see whether they need to limit their services, but if they can’t handle it properly, I may order all the services to stop.”

Although the government has yet to ban commuting between provinces, it is strongly discouraged by the authorities unless it is absolutely necessary. Many transport operators also announced further suspension of their services in wake of the enactment of emergency decree last week.

Some of the provinces such as Phuket, Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat – where the virus is rapidly spreading – have closed off traffic into their provinces except emergency, government, and logistic vehicles.

A checkpoint in Narathiwat province.
A checkpoint in Narathiwat province.

Public transport services in these provinces are also suspended in an order issued Monday by the Department of Land Transport.

Here’s the updated list of travel disruptions as of March 31.

Land

Private car – No travel restrictions except the four southern provinces, but travelers are required to comply with officers at checkpoints across the country where they may be required to fill in forms and have their body temperature checked.

Bangkok buses operated by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) are running in a limited service. BMTA deputy director Prayoon Choygeo said Tuesday that the daily number of buses on the street was reduced to 2,200 from the normal capacity of 3,000 buses.

Passengers are required to wear masks while using the service and comply with social-distance position markings on the bus.

Seats on a Bangkok bus are marked with signs instructing passengers to leave a space for social-distancing.
Seats on a Bangkok bus are marked with signs instructing passengers to leave a space for social-distancing.

Long-distance buses – The Transport Co. announced that it will pause ticket sales for all destinations from March 26 to April 30. Intercity buses will continue to run for passengers with a valid ticket, but they will be required to wear masks and sit separately while using the service.

All international routes were suspended from March 25.

Private operator Nakhonchai Air will continue to operate, but advance ticket sales will be ceased, while Sombat Tour announced suspension of all routes starting March 27 until further notice.

BTS, MRT, Airport Rail Link – All metro lines are operating as usual. MRT Purple Line’s Nonthaburi Civic Center station is now back in service after it was closed for a day on March 26 after a station staff was infected. Passengers are required to wear masks while using the service.

SRT Trains – The State Railway of Thailand announced Friday that it will stop operating 22 services starting April 1. Passengers can check the affected services here.

Ticket sales are still available online and at ticket offices for the remaining services, but passengers will be required to fill questionnaires upon the purchase. They are also required to wear masks while using the service.

Water

Chao Phraya Express Boat and Saen Saep Express Boat are still running normally after their operators reversed service suspension notices.

Air

Thai Airways announced Tuesday suspension of all flights, domestic and international, starting from April 1 to May 31. All domestic routes will be taken over by its subsidiary Thai Smile Airways.

The announcement came after the airline had previously grounded all flights except Munich (Germany) and Zurich (Switzerland).

Thai Smile Airways, Bangkok Airways, Nok Air, and Thai Vietjet Air are still operating some of their domestic flights. All international routes are suspended.

Thai AirAsia and Thai Lion Air have grounded all domestic and international flights until April 30.

A checkpoint in Phuket province.
A checkpoint in Phuket province.
A passenger on songthaew bus gets her temperature checked at a checkpoint on Bangna-Trad Road.
A passenger on songthaew bus gets her temperature checked at a checkpoint on Bangna-Trad Road.

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A Mega-List for Travel Disruptions During State of Emergency