Thailand approves handouts for 2.4 million people, plans more over new virus wave

A motorcyclist rides down a deserted Khaosan Road in Bangkok, Thailand, on Monday, April 19, 2021. Thailand banned the sale of alcoholic beverages in restaurants and closed schools for two weeks to stem the nation’s biggest outbreak of coronavirus, likely delaying plans to further reopen borders to foreign tourists. - Bloomberg

* Govt has nearly US$12.16bil available for support * Economy may grow just 1.8% this year * New wave faster-spreading than earlier outbreaks

BANGKOK, April 20 (Reuters): Thailand's cabinet on Tuesday approved an additional 3.04 billion baht (US$97.4 million) for a current handout scheme which will cover another 2.4 million people as the country deals with a third coronavirus wave.

The scheme was first approved for 31.1 million people, worth about 210 billion baht, in January during a second virus wave.

The money can be used until the end of June, extended for another month, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said in a podcast.

About 200 billion baht ($6.4 billion) under the scheme has been injected into the economy, according to the finance ministry.

The government also plans to introduce more economic stimulus measures to help ease the virus impact, Anucha said.

"The government still has nearly 380 billion baht ($12.16 billion) that can be used to support and restore the economy," he added.

The new outbreak, which includes a highly contagious variant, have caused over 16,000 infections in three weeks, dealing a further blow to Thailand's tourism-reliant economy.

The spread, which accounts for a third of Thailand's cases so far, comes as the country takes tentative steps to reopen to foreign visitors after a year of tightened entry controls.

Last week, the government said its economic growth target of 4% this year might be missed due to the epidemic.

Kasikorn Research Center on Tuesday slashed its gross domestic product growth forecast to 1.8% this year from 2.6% projected earlier, saying the outbreak could mean less than 2 million foreign visitors this year.

That would compare to 6.7 million foreign arrivals last year and a record of nearly 40 million in 2019, whose spending accounted for over 11% of GDP. - Reuters

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