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  • PM orders help to be sent to flood victims in Thailand’s 4 southern provinces

    Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed concern over the flooding in the country’s four southern provinces and has ordered manpower and materials to be rushed to the area.

    Government deputy spokesperson Traisulee Traisoranakul said today that troops, officials from the Interior Ministry and other agencies will also help to evacuate people from hard-hit areas and speed up the discharge of flood water into the sea.

    She said that more than 50,000 households in Songkhla, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces have been affected.

    In Pattani province, the entire central business district is now under water, due to runoff from nearby Yala province, with the water about a metre deep in communities along the Pattani River.

    Mr. Pitak Kongkiatpitak, the mayor of Muang district, has warned residents living along the river to move their valuables to higher ground because the water level is expected to rise further.

    In Yala, however, the flooding is easing and most roads are now passable, although the Pattani River is still overflowing. Many people were seen cleaning up their houses and washing away mud residue.

    Prasert Intub, assistant governor of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, said officials have reduced the amount of water being released through the Bang Lang dam to about 530 cubic metres per second, and will reduce it further in line with inflow to the reservoir.

    He explained that the dam had to discharge water last week because of heavy rain, which caused the level of the reservoir to rise beyond its capacity.: https://www.thaipbsworld.com/pm-orde...ern-provinces/

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    • 'Speed up Lese Majeste probe': PM

      Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has asked four agencies to speed up their probes into lese majeste cases regarding unlawful online content, and to take legal action against the suspects, according to Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta.

      The four agencies in question are the Digital Economy and Society Ministry (DES), the Department of Special Investigation, the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD), and the Foreign Affairs Ministry, he said.

      Gen Prayut said he has impressed upon them the need to step up suppression against lese majeste activities on social media, as well as to curb fake news currently being spread online about Covid-19, said Mr Buddhipongse.

      The TCSD had on Saturday summonsed anti-government protest leaders Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul — who are now among a number of people facing lese majeste charges in connection with the anti-government protests — to come in person and acknowledge their charges of violating the Computer Crime Act, said an informed source.

      The two, however, opted to give a written statement instead, to which the TCSD officials agreed. The TCSD has asked them to submit their written statements by Wednesday, said the source.

      If the two fail to lodge their statements in time, the TCSD investigators will have to proceed with concluding the cases and present them to prosecutors for further legal action, said the source.

      The TCSD is also pursuing legal action against more than 20 other suspects facing charges for their alleged online posts that are in violation of Thailand’s lese mejeste law.

      The DES Ministry’s division for technology and information technology crime suppression and prevention also submitted a number of court-approved orders regarding online lese majeste acts to the foreign companies which own Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and a number of websites along with a request to suspend public access to 9,192 posts containing lese majeste content, said the source.

      In a joint statement read at the 14 October 1973 Memorial last month, the protest leaders said they would use every possible channel to achieve their goal as they believe Section 112 presents a legal obstacle to many issues.

      They likened Section 112 to “the first stone that needs to be removed”.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand...jeste-probe-pm

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      • PM will allow local administration to buy FDA-approved vaccines

        Local government bodies in Thailand will be allowed to acquire COVID-19 vaccines using their own budgets, but the vaccines must be approved by the Food and Drug administration of the country of origin, and the Thai FDA.

        Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said today that he understands that a lot of people have high hopes for the vaccines and the government is acquiring them through many channels.

        He said the government is trying its best, but it will be difficult to please everyone. He said the important point is to ensure that as many people as possible get inoculated.

        The cabinet will oversee the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, and will be very careful over the procurement process.

        Prayut said, however, the timeline of getting vaccines manufactured by Siam Bioscience in Thailand is in progressing well, but still needs to complete several more processes.: https://www.thaipbsworld.com/pm-will...oved-vaccines/

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          • BCG economic strategy to drive Thailand for next 5 years: Prayut

            The strategy for national development under the BCG Model – bio-economy, circular economy and Green economy – was approved by the BCG committee on Wednesday.

            The five-year strategy will begin this year. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who chaired the committee meeting, said the BCG Model will be included in the national development agenda.

            The model seeks to capitalise on Thailand's abundant agricultural products and vast farming zones. It covers the farm, food, health, medical, energy, biochemical and tourism sectors, which account for half of the country's total employment.: https://www.nationthailand.com/busin...ernal_referral

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            • Electricity, water and internet bills to be reduced to help public and SMEs

              Thailand’s cabinet has resolved to launch a set of urgent relief measures, to help the public and SMEs, by boosting liquidity, increasing benefits for the unemployed and reducing the cost of living by lowering electricity and water bills in February and March.

              Households using fewer than 150 units of electricity will not be charged for the first 90 units in the months of February and March. Those exceeding 150 units will be charged discounted rates, in accordance with conditions yet to be announced. For small enterprises, the first 50 units of electricity will be free of charge.

              For water fees, a flat 5% discount will be given to all households and small enterprises, with the exception of government and state enterprises.

              The government will also ask internet service providers to reduce fees and increase connection speeds, in support of people having to work from home.

              The announcement was made via the prime minister’s Facebook page. It said that, by the end of this month, the government will finalize more subsidies, which will help those who are struggling financially.

              Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha assured that the government still has enough money to take care of the economic issues resulting from this new outbreak of COVID-19. The Finance ministry is authorized to spend 1 trillion baht to revive the economy and relieve a society affected by COVID-19. So far, only 500 billion has been spent.

              Prayut promised that the government will spend the taxpayers’ money effectively and in a timely manner.

              He asked the public to be confident that the government can handle the latest outbreak. He said Thailand had no experience or knowledge when the first wave hit last year, but still did very well. This time around, with the expertise of public health officials and, most importantly, with cooperation from everyone, Thailand will be able to survive the crisis.: https://www.thaipbsworld.com/electri...blic-and-smes/


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              • Safety of Thai people most important for vaccination: PM

                Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has said he would not risk Thai lives by rushing to approve vaccines that have not been fully tested

                In a message on his Facebook page on Sunday, the PM refused to let Thais be guinea pigs.

                The PM alluded to recent news about side-effects or adverse effects from Covid-19 vaccine in some foreign countries. He said Thailand must wait to hear opinions of experts on whether the symptoms were vaccine-related, or other factors, such as certain medical conditions, physical condition, or age, including whether the rate of side-effects is acceptable?

                He said some countries wanted to start vaccination early, even before the efficacy and safety of the vaccine had been fully tested.

                "I have an important policy -- to ensure that the vaccine is safe, so it can be used for Thai people," he said.

                The National Vaccine Committee will advise and closely supervise the whole process, he said.

                Success in curbing Covid-19 can be better achieved by cooperation and implementation of various measures, especially wearing a mask at all times, frequently washing hands, and social distancing. In addition, if you want the disease control to be effective, scan the QR Code "ThaiChana" every time you are in public, and using the app "MorChana" will be very good, he said.: https://www.nationthailand.com/news/...ernal_referral

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                • Prayut seeks tighter migrant clampdown

                  Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Monday ordered officials in Samut Sakhon, the epicentre of the new wave of Covid-19 cases in the country, to check for employers who might be secretly hiring illegal migrant workers after infections among that group failed to decline as expected.

                  The PM on Monday held a video conference at Government House with Samut Sakhon's deputy governor Surasak Pholyangsong and other authorities to acknowledge the province's progress in implementing key virus-fighting measures. These included active case detection, screenings, closures of at-risk establishments and hospitals' readiness to treat Thai and foreign patients.

                  Gen Prayut urged Mr Surasak to step up the province's travel restrictions and measures to prevent a further influx of illegal migrants.

                  Turning to the condition of infected Samut Sakhon governor Veerasak Vijitsaengsri, the PM said he remained in hospital and he had given him moral support.

                  Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul reiterated that restrictions in the 28 "maximum and strict" Covid-19 control areas would be eased once the situation improved but this depended on how things developed in each area.

                  On Mr Surasak's announcement that the Central Shrimp Market would reopen on Jan 27, Mr Anutin said the province must first ensure the facility is completely virus-free.

                  Other provinces would also adopt the same gradual reopening as Samut Sakhon, he said.

                  The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Monday expressed concerns over the situation in neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, where infections continue to rise.

                  The CCSA urged communities to help monitor illegal border crossings and stressed that illegal migrant workers must all have Covid tests and reveal their travel history.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand...rant-clampdown
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                  • PM vows action against 'false' stories on vaccine plan

                    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he will order legal action against anyone who spreads false information regarding the government's Covid-19 vaccination plan.

                    He was responding to Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit's criticism of vaccines to be produced locally by Siam Bioscience Ltd through a technology transfer from AstraZeneca.

                    "I will order prosecution for anything that is distorted and not factual that gets published, whether in media or on social media. I have to protect the government's credibility from those who are irresponsible with their remarks," Gen Prayut said after a cabinet meeting via video conference.

                    Suporn Atthawong, vice minister to the Prime Minister's Office, said that he will order a legal team to look into whether Mr Thanathorn posted false information against the prime minister and the government, and whether his remarks violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law.

                    If there are grounds to the accusation, he will lodge a complaint with the Technology Crime Suppression Division, asking it to take legal action against Mr Thanathorn, Mr Suporn said.

                    Mr Thanathorn made his comments on Facebook Live on Monday on a topic titled "Royal Vaccine: Who Benefits and Who Doesn't?"

                    He said the government was too slow in procuring sufficient shots and inoculating the population.

                    "Thailand pinned its hopes only on AstraZeneca which allowed local pharmaceutical manufacturer, Siam Bioscience, to produce its vaccine.

                    "The government had not held talks with other countries until Jan 3 when it announced it will buy 2 million doses of vaccines from Sinovac which is a very small quantity -- enough for only 1.5% of the population,'' Mr Thanathorn said.

                    In response, Dr Nakorn Premsri, director of the National Vaccine Institute said that the government and its partners had looked ahead and planned for ways to get Thais the vaccine. Siam Bioscience invited the British-Swedish pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca to visit its plant to see whether it met the criteria required to produce the vaccine at a minimum of 200 million doses per year. The government approved 600 million baht to improve the plant's facilities to produce the Covid-19 vaccine according to the requirements of AstraZeneca.

                    Many countries approached AstraZeneca to obtain the rights to produce the Covid-19 vaccine, but the company selected Siam Bioscience as its partner to produce the vaccine for other countries in the region because it trusts Siam Bioscience, he said adding that the contract was signed under not-for-profit principles.

                    "If the company wasn't set up under the late King Rama IX's initiative 10 years ago, we would not have this today. Please be confident that Thai people can access the vaccine," he said.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand...n-vaccine-plan

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                    • Prayut’s moment of truth arrives

                      The prime minister can be forgiven if he assumes that his previous problems were “political”, albeit ones that had more to do with ideology and power play than genuine well-being of the people. He will be disastrously wrong, however, if he makes the same assumption about the current trouble.

                      COVID-19 is very good at separating real problems from “less-real” ones. It has done so with many countries and is doing so with Thailand. In the process, the government’s biggest weaknesses have been exposed, a situation that opinion polls and even the administration’s supporters agree cannot be handled or diverted by rhetoric. In short, Prayut will have to bite the bullet.

                      Corrupted immigration authorities and illegal gambling houses have combined to allow the coronavirus to wreak havoc in Thailand again. Although this does not mean that stricter measures on foreign labour and widespread gambling would have made the country 100 per cent safe from the second wave, there is no denying that the government’s weakest spots had made the door much wider open.

                      The “entrance” is big enough to create a formidable two-pronged trouble, threatening a major health crisis and widespread economic hardships. The intertwined problems can create a chain reaction of devastating issues, like corruption here and there, insufficient state services or cases of negligence or inefficacy of government authorities.

                      He will have to “narrow” the entrance, using all the powers at his disposal. As critics and even ardent supporters have pointed out, that the entrance was blown open by many things that may have existed before he became prime minister is not an excuse. His coup in 2014 and his decision to take up the premiership in 2019 fly in the face of such claims as “Even 100 prime ministers can’t solve it.”

                      Prayut had been arguably lucky last year. Street protests had looked absolutely intimidating in the beginning but were then weakened by controversial demands. Serious factional problems in the ruling Palang Pracharath Party disrupted work of the all-important Finance Ministry but the world’s economic turmoil caused by COVID-19 blurred Thailand’s situation, making it unclear which problems were inevitable and which ones should have been preventable. Then what happens in America helps him some more.

                      And apart from that, Prayut had gone through crises that concerned his personal issues, like the “incomplete oath recital”, or the “misuse” of residential benefits, or the perception that, as a former coup leader, he did not deserve to be the prime minister after an election. Politics has been like that. It makes a lot of people get mixed up on the definitions of personal and national survivals.

                      This crisis is different, as it directly affects the general Thai public, a situation that a prime minister has the obligation to tackle. It’s Prayut’s “duty” in the oldest and most sacred definition of the word, and it’s the opposition’s “duty” to make sure he pulls the country through or stays out of the kitchen otherwise.

                      Prayut will face his moment of truth. The “reconciliation” agenda that was advertised repeatedly during his early days as a coup leader has failed utterly but he did not crumble because of that. The “three-finger” campaign has staggered him, yet he still stands, and even becomes the last line of defense for a deep-rooted political culture in the eyes of many.

                      But whether divided Thais are “reconciled” or not or how the new Constitution will look like has nothing to do with job losses, businesses going bellies up, a public health threat on a massive scale or disruptions to students’ learning. For the first time, he will be judged the way he is supposed to be judged, as someone tasked with stopping or easing those real-life problems.

                      The coronavirus is a scourge, but it is teaching politicians all over the world how to correctly play politics. Now, the teacher is calling on Prayut to show his worth, or lack thereof.: https://www.thaipbsworld.com/prayuts...truth-arrives/


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                      • Thai PM vows to work closely with the new US administration

                        Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said Thursday that he is ready to work closely with US President Joe Biden and the US government, to bolster the long relationship between the two countries, which dates back over 200 years, and to promote cooperation in all aspects and at all levels.

                        As Thailand is the US’s longest standing ally in Asia, the Thai prime minister said he hopes the US, under President Biden, will not turn its back on the country.

                        On the occasion of the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the prime minister sent a letter of congratulations and extended an invitation for the President and First Lady to visit Thailand, saying he is looking forward to welcoming them both.

                        In his letter to the 46th president, written on behalf of the Thai government and the Thai people, the prime minister expressed his sincere congratulations for President Biden’s election victory, with the highest number of votes in the history of US presidential elections, amidst so many challenges.

                        The prime minister said that the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has taught all countries a lesson and that the world is facing historic changes, with the most important thing being “for all of us is to come together face to face and to cooperate with one another.”: https://www.thaipbsworld.com/thai-pm...dministration/


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                        • Opposition takes aim at 10 ministers

                          The opposition camp is gearing up for a no-confidence debate, the second of its kind against the government, and is said to have a very long list of targets and allegations ranging from flawed management to corruption. The main issues will evolve around the handling of Covid-19.

                          While Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is the prime target of the upcoming debate, the opposition is said to be training their guns on 10 cabinet members from three coalition parties: the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), the Democrat Party and the Bhumjaithai Party.

                          The ministers include Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit, Deputy Interior Minister Niphon Bunyamanee, Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin and Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob.

                          The opposition parties are scheduled to meet on Sunday to review and finalise their targets and charges before submitting the no-confidence motion along with the details of the accusations to House Speaker on Monday.

                          In the previous debate in February last year, Gen Prayut and four ministers faced a grilling and all comfortably survived a vote of no confidence.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand...t-10-ministers

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                          • Govt aims to vaccinate 19m in first phase

                            The government is targeting the immunisation of 19 million people against the coronavirus in a first phase of inoculations starting on Feb 14, the prime minister said on Wednesday, amid criticism the government has been slow in rolling out vaccines.

                            Inoculations will begin with 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha said. He gave no timeline for the first phase.

                            By May, Thailand will have received 150,000 doses from AstraZeneca.

                            In a broadcast carried on the government's website, Gen Prayut apologised for not solving Covid-19 related problems as fast as the public had demanded.

                            "Blaming each other will not solve any problems," he said.

                            Of the 19 million to be vaccinated, 11 million would be people aged over 60 and 6.1 million would be those with underlying diseases, he said.

                            Another 1.7 million would be for medical professionals and 15,000 government workers involved in managing the virus, he said, adding those under 18 and pregnant women would not be vaccinated. About a fifth of the population is under 18.

                            The timeframe would depend on the capacity of hospitals administering the vaccines and number of doses they receive, the head of the government's vaccine management committee, Sophon Mekthon, told Reuters.

                            The government has altogether secured 26 million doses from AstraZeneca to be produced by local firm Siam Biosience and 2 million doses from China's Sinovac. It has also reserved 35 million doses from AstraZeneca.

                            Thailand will initially import the vaccines but is expected by June to be producing it locally, Dr Sophon added.

                            Authorities say they will vaccinate 31.5 million people.

                            The Education Ministry on Wednesday said it would reopen most schools from next week, in response to localised declines in new coronavirus infections.

                            The announcement comes despite the country reporting on Wednesday its second-highest number of new daily coronavirus cases, with 819 infections, the majority due to mass testing in Samut Sakhon province, the epicentre of the most recent outbreak.

                            The government has reported 15,465 cases and 76 deaths.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand...in-first-phase

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                            • Stakes high for Thailand’s opposition as censure debate targets govt

                              The opposition is unlikely to upend the government in next month’s censure debate, as has been the case previously. But its performance will show if opposition MPs are indeed serious about scrutinising the powers-that-be and if they are up to the task of protecting taxpayers’ interests.

                              The opposition bloc’s performance during last year’s no-confidence debate brought allegations of “match-fixing”, with critics claiming certain Cabinet members were intentionally spared scrutiny.

                              Opposition parties on Monday (Jan 25) submitted a motion to censure Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and nine other Cabinet members – mostly for alleged mismanagement.

                              General Prayut, who doubles as defence minister, is accused of “destroying the bond between the monarchy and the people”. The monarchy is being used to divide the people as well as shield his government’s mistakes and failures, claims the motion.

                              The longest list of accusations – almost a quarter of the four-page censure motion – is reserved for Prayut.

                              Seven Cabinet members are accused of “having no evident integrity” or “exercising their power without honesty”.

                              The motion, backed by 208 opposition MPs, also charges at least two of the targeted Cabinet members with “acting like influential figures” – a Thai euphemism that implies connections with criminal syndicates.

                              Along with the prime minister, the opposition is targeting Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, Deputy PM and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy PM and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit, Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda, his deputy Nipon Bunyamanee, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan, Labour Minister Suchat Chomklin, Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob and Deputy Agriculture Minister Thamanat Prompow.

                              Of the 10 Cabinet members, four were targeted by the first censure debate last year, namely Prayut, Prawit, Anupong and Thamanat.

                              In the latest censure effort, General Prawit, leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, is accused of acting like an influential figure and “spending state budget to build his own wealth”.

                              Despite earlier speculation that he would be spared, it has now been confirmed that Prawit is a target of the motion.

                              Thamanat, who remains haunted by questions about his past, is also described in the motion as behaving like an influential figure, who “amasses influence for his allies and cohorts”.

                              The no-confidence debate is scheduled for February 16 to 19, said House Speaker Chuan Leekpai after accepting the petition from opposition leader Sompong Amornvivat, who heads Pheu Thai Party.

                              Observers, however, question whether opposition-leader Pheu Thai is serious about scrutinising the 10 ministers. The opposition bloc’s unity is also in doubt, with some observers dismissing this latest censure debate as “another phoney fight”.

                              Pheu Thai led the opposition’s first censure assault on Prayut’s government in February last year. However, it was accused by opposition ally, the now-defunct Future Forward Party, of making a secret deal with Palang Pracharath to allow Prawit off the hook. The accusation came after Pheu Thai MPs used up all the opposition’s allotted debating time, giving Future Forward MPs no chance to call Prawit to account over a string of controversies.

                              This time around, Pheu Thai leader Sompong has committed to “full cooperation” within the opposition bloc, said Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat.

                              Move Forward is the reincarnation of Future Forward, which was dissolved by the charter court last year over illegal donations.

                              “We have learned a lesson. As party leader, I will do everything I can to prevent a repeat of mistakes made in the last censure debate,” said Pita.

                              Pheu Thai’s secretary-general, Prasert Chantararuangthong, promised on Monday that the debate would be “to the point” this time, adding that the aim was to restore public faith in his party.

                              “We already have a knockout punch,” he warned, adding that Pheu Thai will also file complaints with the National Anti-Corruption Commission against certain targeted ministers.: https://www.thaipbsworld.com/stakes-...-targets-govt/

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                              • PM sounds warning as easing confirmed

                                Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was upbeat on Friday as the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) approved the easing of coronavirus control measures in large parts of the country.

                                "Restrictions will be eased, including the resumption of businesses and schools, but everyone must still follow heath safety protocols," the PM said after a meeting of the CCSA.

                                "Otherwise, some businesses may have to be closed again."

                                A widespread easing of regulations will take effect on Monday, although substantial controls remain in place throughout red-zone provinces in the greater Bangkok cluster and cockfighting and bullfighting remain banned nationwide.

                                "Businesses will be allowed to restart so people's lives can return to normal," the prime minister said "But everyone must still observe precautions -- and don't conceal information. Businesses that are permitted to resume must be extra careful. It is everyone's responsibility."

                                Gen Prayut said the second outbreak had dealt a blow to the economy and the government needed to devise measures to contain the disease.

                                The CCSA continued to monitor and assess the situation on a daily basis, Gen Prayut said, and disease control measures will continue to be eased unless people fail to comply.

                                Police and soldiers will step up patrols in at-risk areas and businesses that fail to comply will be dealt with severely, Gen Prayut said.

                                He also said that Samut Sakhon, the epicentre of the second wave, would remain a "strict and maximum" control zone and adjacent provinces must also be under close surveillance to prevent the spread of Covid-19 into the province.

                                CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin announced details of the easing of Covid-19 curbs and said strict restrictions would continue in greater Bangkok but will be further relaxed in those provinces where the disease was under control.

                                The resumption of business and recreational activities would help the national economy, but would be reviewed if the Covid-19 situation deteriorated, he said.

                                Everyone must continue to practise social distancing and wear face masks.

                                These practices were key to Covid-19 control, he said, adding that businesses in most areas could resume but gambling-related activities were still banned.: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand...sing-confirmed


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