BANGKOK: Thailand's prime minister on Monday (Jan 4) urged the public to stay home to help contain the country's biggest COVID-19 outbreak yet and avoid a strict lockdown, as authorities confirmed a daily record of 745 new infections.
The government has declared 28 provinces, including Bangkok, as high-risk zones and asked people to work from home and avoid gathering or travel beyond their provinces, as infection numbers climb in the wake of the outbreak first detected last month at a seafood market near the capital.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the government was mindful of the potential economic damage from strong containment measures.
"We don't want to lock down the entire country because we know what the problems are, therefore can you all lock down yourselves?" he told reporters.
"This is up to everyone, if we don't want to get infected just stay home for 14 to 15 days, if you think like this then things will be safe, easier for screening," Prayut added.
There was also one new death confirmed on Monday. Of the 745 cases included in the day's total, 541 had been reported on Sunday by provincial authorities.
Thailand has recorded 8,439 coronavirus cases and 65 deaths overall, among the lowest numbers in Asia.
Most new cases are linked to a migrant worker cluster which started in Samut Sakhon, a province southwest of Bangkok, and led to infections in more than half of the country's provinces.
Bangkok authorities ordered restaurants and street food vendors to halt dine-in services between 7pm and 6am from Tuesday to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. Take-outs will be allowed.
Alcohol sales in restaurants have been banned and bars and other entertainment venues closed in high-risk provinces. Provincial governors have been empowered to set their own restrictions.
Schools and education centres nationwide have been closed for one month.