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Coronavirus

Thailand bans entry by foreigners in emergency decree

Coronavirus measures take mall shutdown nationwide while factories remain open

Passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport near Bangkok: Thailand has banned most foreign nationals from entering the country and asked Thais not to leave. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

BANGKOK -- Thailand on Thursday declared a state of emergency through April 30 to curb the spread of the coronavirus, banning most foreigners from entering the country but largely sparing the manufacturing sector.

The restrictions include a nationwide extension of Bangkok's shutdown of department stores, shopping malls and entertainment facilities such as movie theaters and arenas. Retail conglomerate Central Group has closed 33 department stores around the country. Supermarkets, convenience stores and other shops that sell food and daily necessities can stay open.

The government has barred travel to Thailand by foreign nationals with a few exceptions, such as diplomats and holders of valid work permits, though they must possess health certificates showing that they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19. The country has closed its borders with neighboring nations including Myanmar and Cambodia as well.

These measures will further hamstring a tourism industry already suffering from the pandemic.

But the declaration lets factories continue to operate, reflecting the importance of manufacturing to Thailand's economy. The country serves as a production hub for the auto industry, particularly Japanese players such as Toyota Motor.

The government recommends that companies have employees telecommute or stagger their hours. State-owned oil and gas group PTT Exploration and Production enacted a work-from-home policy starting Thursday.

Unlike other countries, Thailand has not banned people from leaving their homes for nonessential travel. The government urges at-risk groups to stay home, including people older than 70 or younger than 5 as well as those with underlying health conditions.

Thais also have been asked to avoid cross-border travel between provinces. The army set up more than 350 checkpoints nationwide to monitor travel.

These voluntary restrictions may be made mandatory if the country sees a surge in coronavirus cases.

Thailand's Ministry of Public Health reported an increase of 111 cases Thursday for a total of 1,045, the fifth straight day with more than 100 new cases.

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