Prayuth Chan-ocha removes his face mask and spectacles as he attends a family photo session with new ministers. File / Reuters
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha was fined for not wearing a mask on Monday after new COVID-19 restrictions came into force to try to halt the country's spiralling outbreak.
Wearing masks is now compulsory in public spaces in 49 provinces and the capital, Bangkok — where the latest outbreak has been traced back to a nightlife district. Some locations are backing it up with a 20,000 baht ($640) fine.
After a picture of a maskless Prayut Chan-O-Cha attending a meeting emerged on social media on Monday, the Bangkok governor said the premier had been fined 6,000 baht ($190).
"As Bangkok governor, I filed a complaint against the prime minister who accepted the fine," Governor Aswin Kwanmuang wrote on Facebook.
Some 2,048 new cases were announced on Monday. The day before, Thailand recorded its highest single-day death toll of the pandemic, with 11 fatalities.
A shopper walks past a mouse statue in a face mask in a shopping mall in Bangkok. AFP
Until the latest outbreak, Thailand had managed to keep infections down thanks to strict travel restrictions and swift action to isolate confirmed cases.
But there have been complaints about the slow rollout of vaccines, with the kingdom lagging behind other countries in the region. "It's a failure in management from the health ministry," said 61-year-old restaurant manager Pracha, who gave his first name only.
Prayut said on Facebook the government was trying to source more doses and ramp up the programme to inoculate 300,000 people a day.
In addition to the mask requirement, authorities in the capital have closed a raft of venues including cinemas, parks, gyms, swimming pools, spas and nurseries.
The new restrictions come a week after bars and nightclubs were ordered closed and restaurants banned from serving alcohol.
Pranee Namrat, a 48-year-old seafood vendor, told AFP she was frightened the situation would get worse. "If I got infected... I'm scared of not having a place for treatment," she said.
"The mandatory wearing of masks on public transport, where social distancing is not possible, should by accompanied by one very simple precaution: avoid talking and making phone calls," the French National Academy of Medicine said in a statement.
Overall, the inspections found 773 commercial establishments fully complied with the guidelines. The violating outlets were involved in garments trading, money exchange, document processing, mobile phones trading and general trading.
Dubai Economy reminded businesses to refrain from taking undue advantage of the present situation and also called on pharmacies and medical equipment suppliers to demonstrate their social responsibility by reducing the prices of essentials, such as face masks, sanitisers, and disinfectants.
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