Thailand approves soft loans and subsidies to mitigate virus impact; another 287 Covid-19 cases confirmed

A woman eats her meal using rubber gloves as a waitress wearing a face mask as preventive measure against the spread of Covid-19 walks past at a seaside view restaurant in Bangpu, on the outskirts of Bangkok. - AFP

BANGKOK, Jan 12 (Reuters): Thailand has approved more measures to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic after its biggest outbreak yet, including soft loans and lower utility bills, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha said on Tuesday.

The new measures aim to boost liquidity for businesses, provide debt relief and support for unemployment, Prayuth said, adding that an additional sum of a monthly 3,500 baht ($116) per person for two months would be considered next week.

Electric and water expenses would be subsided until March, Prayuth told a briefing, and higher Internet speeds and data would also be supported to promote working from home.

Thailand's case numbers, which are among the world's lowest in relation to its population, have more than doubled to 10,834 since a month ago, when a big outbreak was found among migrant workers in a province near Bangkok.

Cases have since been found in more than half of its provinces and some containment measures have been re-imposed and people urged to stay home.

The government has 638 billion baht (US$21.16 billion) ready for low-interest loans from state banks and the central bank for business owners and freelance workers, Finance Minster Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said.

Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow said new measures were still within the government's budget and there was no need for more borrowing.

"If everybody cooperates, we will be able to manage the outbreak by March," he said.

For most of 2020, Thailand kept daily cases low, in part due to strict entry requirements that have devastated tourism-related businesses.

Meanwhile, Thailand confirmed 287 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday (Jan 12), according to the Center for the Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

Of the new cases, 278 were local infections and nine others were those recently returning from abroad and testing positive in Thailand, CCSA spokesman Taweesin Visanuyothin said.

Around 30,000 Myanmar migrant and Thai workers in Samut Sakhon, where the second wave began, have so far tested for the coronavirus, said Naretrit Khatthasima, head of the provincial public health office.

Another 20,000 workers, mostly Myanmar migrants, are following suit in a two-week period in the coastal province, Naretrit said.

Thailand has so far confirmed 10,834 cases of Covid-19 infection, 8,659 of which were reported as domestic ones while 2,175 others involving those returning from abroad, Taweesin said.

Of that total, 6,732 patients have fully recovered and been released from hospitals while 4,035 others are currently hospitalized and 67 fatalities have been reported, Taweesin said. - Xinhua
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