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Thailand imposes severe restrictions due to pandemic

Thai government officials on Friday announced a seven-hour nighttime curfew in the capital Bangkok and at least six surrounding provinces. The decision came amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.

The announcement came after a lengthy meeting of the Thai Center for Coronavirus Management (CCSA). In a televised statement, CCSA spokesman Natapanu Nopakun said the curfew will be in effect from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. beginning Monday, July 12.

During this period, there will be no public transportation and all businesses will be closed except for supermarkets, restaurants, banks, pharmacies, and electronics stores, which are considered of primary importance. Citizens are also asked to work remotely and to leave home only if absolutely necessary. Public meetings of more than five people are also prohibited. Schools, gyms, bars, and restaurants in Thailand are already closed.

It is also noted that the new terminal at the airport of the Thai capital will be converted into a real field hospital for the coronavirus for five thousand beds.

Thailand is struggling to contain the third wave of COVID-19, caused by the delta variant of the virus. This wave is the most serious to date. Authorities confirmed a record 9,276 cases on Friday, along with 73 deaths. There are concerns that the official numbers are understated because of a lack of testing. The availability of tests and vaccinations is so limited that people have been standing in line at night in the rain to try to get tested for free.

The nation's highest daily increase in cases since the pandemic was reported May 17, when 9,635 cases were confirmed, most of which occurred in prisons, the Guardian notes.

Southeast Asia is now suffering a record number of deaths and cases, while vaccine shortages and more contagious variants of the virus have undermined efforts to contain the pandemic, Reuters reported. While countries such as Britain, Germany, and France are preparing to lift most remaining restrictions after devastating pandemic outbreaks, Southeast Asian governments are tightening measures.

French Health Minister Olivier Veran expects the highly contagious delta variant of the virus to become the dominant strain in the country this weekend. In an interview with Radio France, Veran said that the delta variant, originally detected in India, already accounted for nearly 50 percent of new COVID-19 cases in France as of Thursday.

This variant was found to be 60 percent more infectious than the original virus. Veran also expects the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic to hit France as early as the end of this month.

He said senior French government ministers will meet Monday to discuss the threat and will consider, among other things, making vaccinations mandatory for health care workers and caregivers.

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