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Asia Minute: Thailand Tightens Restrictions

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Thailand is one of the latest countries to declare a state of emergency. It goes into effect today — and lasts at least through the end of April.

By now, the message is familiar – although the particular rules vary country by country.

For Thailand, the state of emergency bans social gatherings and shuts down shops and businesses judged to be “non-essential.” The government is urging people older than 79 and younger than five to stay home.

The country is also joining others in barring foreigners —in this case, until the end of April.

The Bangkok Post reports a bit of a scramble for some tourists to leave the country – saying more than 2,000 of them have filed complaints against tour operators regarding cancellations.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, Thailand is the largest tourism economy in Southeast Asia – with the sector making up a little more than 20% of the national economy. In a very preliminary report, the Bank of Thailand is already predicting a drop of more than 5% in the country’s GDP this year because of the outbreak of the coronavirus.

On Friday, the central bank held its first emergency meeting in 17 years — cutting a key interest rate to a record low.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha told residents in a national address that “Thailand is at a turning point in the outbreak and the situation could get a lot worse” — adding “it’s important that we imposed stricter rules to reduce the spread.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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