Thailand, so far relatively spared, is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus cases, especially in Bangkok. Schools, bars and shopping centers have closed, but some are calling for martial law and complete containment of the capital’s estimated 10 million residents.
This kingdom identified Sunday 188 additional people contaminated with COVID-19, the largest daily increase since the start of the pandemic, bringing the total number of patients to 599, against 114 on March 15.
80% of the cases are concentrated in Bangkok and many are linked to a Thai boxing tournament which took place at the beginning of the month in this megalopolis.
“We were tight against each other. Normally, the place is not so crowded (…), but it was a special match, “said a spectator, tested since positive and quoted in local media.
The city, already hit hard economically by the coronavirus, is now “on the verge of the health crisis”, estimated to AFP doctor Thiravat Hemachudha, from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
“We would like you to stay at home. Do not travel to the country, “implored the Thai Ministry of Health on Sunday, urging residents of the capital not to flee to provinces that could find themselves submerged.
However, images of Bangkok’s largest bus station, filmed by a television channel, showed hundreds of people, including many Laotian workers, on the platforms trying to leave the city or the country.
Airlines Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia have canceled all international flights while their counterpart Thai Lion Air has fully anchored its fleet
And provincial governors now have full powers to close land border crossings, except for the movement of goods.
The sharp increase in cases in recent days has mainly led the government to tighten measures in Bangkok.
After the closure of schools, sports facilities, bars and other places of entertainment, the authorities proceeded until Sunday until April 12 to countless shopping centers, beauty salons, etc.
“Only areas where food and everyday goods are sold will be opened,” said Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang.
As a result, queues formed in front of convenience stores in the capital to buy basic necessities, medicines, etc.
The army is also increasing disinfection operations in the streets and metro stations.
But some believe that it is necessary to go further in this city, one of the largest in Southeast Asia.
We see what happened in China and now in Europe, “if we do not act immediately, we risk having a crisis as serious as in Italy,” noted Thiravat Hemachudha, who calls for the promulgation of the martial law for three weeks to force the population to confine themselves.
According to media reports, a complete lockdown of Bangkok could be imposed by decree in the coming days.
In the rest of the kingdom, all schools are closed as well as places of entertainment in the usually touristy resorts of Pattaya and Phuket. However, some beaches remain relatively crowded.
Thailand is renowned for the quality of its medical infrastructure, but, according to Thiravat Hemachudha, only 600 doctors are trained there to care for patients with COVID-19 in critical condition.
Other countries in the Mekong region, also officially relatively unscathed so far, are also taking draconian and completely new measures.
Vietnam, where 113 cases are confirmed to date, prohibits from this Sunday access to its territory to all foreigners, except in exceptional cases.
Cambodia counts only 84 cases.
But a recent report from the American University of Harvard finds it statistically impossible for this country, as well as for Burma and Laos, which have no reported cases despite their close economic ties to China, to not not have more people infected.