Thailand imposes entertainment curbs in capital to thwart virus spread
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand announced its first coronavirus death in nearly two months and tightened restrictions on entertainment businesses in its capital on Monday, in a bid to contain an outbreak that has reached more than half of the country's provinces.
Authorities confirmed 144 new infections on Monday as new clusters emerged stemming from its biggest outbreak yet, prompting a ban in Bangkok on betting businesses and midnight closures for its bars, nightclubs and music venues until Jan. 4.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said he was undergoing two weeks of quarantine after exposure to an infected provincial governor, while house speaker Chuan Leekpai asked 29 parliamentary staffers to seek tests after meeting a person who contracted the virus.
The baht eased 0.3% on Monday while the stock market fell 2.3%, amid concerns about new curbs.
Thailand, the first country outside China to report a coronavirus infection, has recorded just 6,285 cases and 61 COVID-19 deaths, having brought earlier outbreaks under control.
Its success has been attributed to tight restrictions on inbound travel and swift testing and contact-tracing.
Bangkok's tighter measures follow similar regulations in some of the 43 provinces with cases since a big outbreak was discovered 11 days ago among migrant workers at a seafood market in Samut Sakhon, a province near the capital.
A cluster has been found in the eastern province of Rayong linked to a gambling den, with 92 infections in three days and one death, a 45-year-old man.
Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, spokesman for the Bangkok authorities, said a field hospital would also be set up in the capital and the restrictions reviewed next week.
The outbreak could hamper efforts to revive a crucial tourist industry devastated by the pandemic, as authorities ease some restrictions on foreigners and offer incentives to boost domestic travel.