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Thailand sets daily record of COVID-19 deaths for second day

Village health volunteers help people prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease in Ang Thong province, Thailand.   © Reuters

BANGKOK (Reuters) -- Thailand on Sunday set a record for the daily number of COVID-19 deaths for the second consecutive day, as authorities step up the response to a rapid third wave of infections after about a year of relative success slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Thailand will slow down issuing travel documents for foreign nationals from India due to the outbreak of a new coronavirus B.1.617 variant, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government's COVID-19 taskforce.

"For foreigners from India entering Thailand, right now we will slow this down," said Taweesin adding that 131 Thai nationals in India already registered to travel in May will still be allowed into the country.

Thailand reported 2,438 new coronavirus cases and 11 new deaths, bringing the total number of infections to 55,460 and fatalities to 140 since the pandemic started last year.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on his Facebook page on Saturday said provincial governors can close public venues and impose curfews if necessary to stop the virus spreading.

Authorities in the capital city of Bangkok have ordered the closure of venues including parks, gyms, cinemas and day-care centres from April 26 through May 9.

Shopping malls remain open but the Thai Retailers Association has restricted store opening hours in Bangkok as well as in 17 more of the country's 73 provinces.

Thailand kept its number of infection cases far lower than many other countries throughout last year, but a new outbreak, spurred partly by the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant, has resulted in over 24,000 cases and 46 deaths in just 25 days.

The rising figures have prompted concern over the number of hospital beds, particularly as government policy is to admit anyone testing positive for the novel coronavirus, even those without symptoms.

Health officials have insisted there are still over 20,000 available beds nationwide.

To free beds quicker, the prime minister has said health authorities are considering reducing the quarantine period for asymptomatic cases to 10 days from 14, with the remaining four days to be spent in self-isolation at home.

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