Thailand imposes state of emergency to control coronavirus

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A hand sanitizer container is mounted in store-shelf as staff with face masks place supplies in a supermarket in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Most popular shopping malls remained shut in Bangkok, except supermarkets and pharmacies to combat the spread of new coronavirus. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

BANGKOK – Thailand's government approved on Tuesday a one-month state of emergency allowing it to impose stricter measures to control the coronavirus that has infected hundreds of people in the Southeast Asian country.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said his Cabinet decided that the state of emergency will take effect Thursday.

The move gives the government additional powers to implement curfews, censor the media, disperse gatherings and deploy the military for enforcement. Details about what exact measures will be imposed are to be released later.

In a brief televised address, Prayuth assured the country that he is not instituting a lockdown yet. He said initial measures would focus on reducing transmission of the coronavirus in different areas.

"Some will involve requiring cooperation from the public, others will be orders," he said, explaining that a decision on whether to impose stricter measures such as a lockdown depends on whether people cooperate.

Prayuth urged the public to remain calm and warned against improper use of social media and hoarding, saying enforcement would now be stricter.

He also advised people to stay where they are and not to travel to rural areas, where many workers in the cities have their permanent homes and families.

He said screening and quarantine measures will be applied to those who do travel, and announced that the government is preparing isolation centers, field hospitals and additional medical supplies.