BANGKOK – Thailand’s Health Ministry warned Sunday that restrictions may need to be tightened to slow the spread of a fresh coronavirus wave, as the country hit a daily record for new cases.
The ministry confirmed 967 new infections, the highest ever in a 24-hour period, bringing Thailand’s total to 32,625 cases since January last year — including 97 deaths. The expanding outbreak comes after the country kept the virus largely in check for most of last year.
If the number of cases is still rising in two weeks, measures beyond the current restrictions on nightlife and longstanding social distancing rules will need to be put in place, said Dr. Sophon Iamsirithaworn, deputy director general of the Department of Disease Control.
Most of the recent cases have been traced to an outbreak that originated last month at several nightlife entertainment venues in Bangkok, Sophon said. He said people should be working from home and exercise vigilance.
Tests among those infected at the Bangkok nightspots found some patients infected with the U.K. variant of the coronavirus, which has been found to be more infectious than the original strain.
The rapid rise in cases has been most marked in the capital, Bangkok, and the tourist destinations of Chiangmai in the north and Chonburi province in the east, home to the seaside resort town of Pattaya.
As a hub for commerce and transport throughout the country, Bangkok is a potential vector for the transmission of any disease. The risk is heightened this week as Thais celebrate their traditional Songkran new year’s holiday, during which many normally leave the capital to celebrate with their families in their old hometowns.
Despite the risk, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha did not issue any ban on inter-provincial travel when he announced measures last week to combat the spread of the virus.