Government to lock down parts of southern provinces

The government is looking to lock down some areas in the southernmost provinces as the Covid-19 outbreak situation in the region is worsening, its government spokesman said on Monday.

“The prime minister had expressed concerns over the outbreak situation in the four provinces in the southern border,” said Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.

“General Nattaphon Narkphanit was appointed by the premier to set up and lead the Southern Border Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, or frontline CCSA,” he said.

“General Nattaphon is already working with provincial communicable disease committees to apply stricter measures, including lockdown in some areas, in order to control the spread of the infection,” he said.  

The government had been looking to further relax Covid prevention measures in 23 highly-controlled and restricted provinces which include Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani and Songkhla by November, but the plan will now be changed for these provinces.

Thanakorn said the government will provide more details on the stricter measures for the four provinces by this week.  

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said on Monday that the daily number of Covid cases in the four southernmost provinces now accounted for 23 per cent of the nationwide number, compared to 16 per cent last week.

Green = 67 provinces, Blue = Bangkok and five surrounding provinces, Orange = four southernmost provinces

Of the 10 provinces with the highest number of infections in the past 24 hours, five were in the south including Yala (756), Nakhon Si Thammarat (615), Songkhla (579), Pattani (502) and Narathiwat (466). Only Bangkok (1,046) was higher than Yala.

From the 63 people who died from Covid in the past 24 hours, 21 were from the southern region including eight in Nakhon Si Thammarat, three in Phuket, three in Prachuap Khiri Khan, two in Surat Thani, two in Narathiwat, one in Yala, one in Chumphon and one in Satun.

Mutual activities such as eating and drinking tea together, crowded religious activities and other ceremonies, the low rate of Covid vaccine intake and the proximity to neighbouring Malaysia are some of the causes for the outbreak in the south, the CCSA said. Many active clusters in Pattani were from weddings.

Many pubs and bars in the region were also breaking the emergency decree by opening when they supposed to be closing and the prime minister had instructed local authorities to strictly crackdown on them, Thanakorn said.

The CCSA said on Monday some of the main clusters in the south between April and October and include entertainment venues, prisons and factories. Infected people coming from other high-risk areas in the country and people crossing over from Malaysia are also contributing to the outbreak in the region, they said.

Apart from setting up the frontline CCSA to facilitate the outbreak prevention efforts in the south, the government said they are sending more vaccines and antigen test kits to the south.

However, some people, mostly in the four southernmost provinces, are reluctant to be vaccinated because of low level of trust in the government, religious and personal beliefs and rumours against Sinovac, which is one of the country’s main vaccine at the moment, experts told Thai Enquirer on Monday.

The four provinces are designated as a conflict zone where insurgency activities have been ongoing for decades.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Monday that the government is sending another 480,000 Pfizer doses to the four provinces to encourage more people there to get vaccinated.

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