With Thailand struggling to control the worst of the coronavirus outbreak, Bangkok residents made it mandatory to wear masks in public from Monday. One of the first to break the new rule?
The country’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, spotted maskless at a government meeting in a photo posted on his official Facebook page.
As a first-time offender, he agreed to pay a fine of about $ 190. Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang came by with senior police officers on Monday to help with the collection.
“I told the Prime Minister that this was a violation of the rules,” the governor wrote on Facebook. The photo was removed from the Prime Minister’s Facebook page.
For Mr. Prayuth, the gaffe is the least of his pandemic problems. His government has struggled to contain the transmission and has been slow to obtain vaccines. As infections increased earlier this month, he decided to let Thais travel widely during a big vacation.
“Whatever will be, will be,” he said then. “The government will have to try to deal with it later.”
Now his government is scrambling to source vaccines from a tight global supply and is rushing to set up field hospitals in sports stadiums and other locations as many hospitals say they are near full. According to a New York Times database, only 0.3 percent of the population was fully vaccinated.
On Tuesday, the government reported 15 deaths, the highest daily total since the pandemic began, and more than 2,000 new cases for the fifth day in a row. That brings Thailand’s total for the pandemic to nearly 60,000 cases and 163 deaths, according to the government.
The numbers are low by global standards; Thailand led the world in containment of the virus last year. Almost 90 percent of the cases have occurred since January 1st.
Many provinces have imposed their own restrictions, including Bangkok, which has ordered the closure of more than 30 types of businesses such as fitness centers, cinemas, bars and massage parlors. Restaurants, shopping centers and department stores can continue to operate with restrictions.
Almost two-thirds of Thailand’s provinces have fined them for not wearing a mask in public. The maximum fine is approximately $ 635.