Thailand Prime Minister One of First People Fined $640 For Breaking Country's Face Mask Rule

Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was among the first to be fined for not wearing a mask on Monday, when the new rule went into effect in Bangkok, the Associated Press reported.

Authorities in Thailand are imposing fines of up to 20,000 baht ($640) for people who fail to wear masks in public in 48 provinces, as a new wave of COVID-19 cases puts an increasing strain on the country's medical system.

The city's governor, Aswin Kwanmuang, said he, the city police chief and another officer went to collect a 6,000 baht ($190) fine from Prayuth, since it was his first offense under rule. The incriminating photo was deleted from the prime minister's account.

Health officials announced a 2.048 new infection rate and eight new deaths on Monday, the fourth day in a row with more than 2,000 new cases. This brought the country's totals to 57,508 cases and 148 fatalities.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Thailand Mask Rule Fine
A shopper walks past a mouse statue in a face mask in a shopping mall in Bangkok on April 26, 2021, amid an expansion of lockdown restrictions to halt a surge in COVID-19 cases. A new rule that recently took effect in Thailand will fine people for not wearing a mask in public as new cases continue to rise. Lillian SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images

Despite rapidly rising numbers, there currently are no nationwide lockdowns, curfews or travel bans. Individual provinces have been allowed to issue their own restrictions, including mandatory quarantines for visitors from other provinces. Forty-eight of the 76 provinces have imposed fines for not wearing face masks.

The capital city of Bangkok has the largest number of cases and is closing more than 30 types of businesses and services, including cinemas, parks, zoos, bars, pools and massage parlors. Gatherings of more than 20 people are banned and shopping malls and department stores may continue operating, but with abbreviated hours.

Thailand has struggled to cope with the new outbreak, which originated in March in nightspots in and around Bangkok, as Prayuth's government has been reluctant to impose harsh restrictions that would further hurt businesses already battered by the pandemic.

Apisamai Srirangsan, a spokeswoman for the national Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, said the government on Thursday will discuss whether to impose additional measures in some areas, including the country's two major cities, Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Apisamai said finding beds for everyone who tests positive is a problem but the government will stick with its policy of having all patients placed under medical supervision. She said the government is adding more beds to hospitals and setting up more field hospitals, including at stadiums in Bangkok that have been turned into primary care places for patients awaiting spots in hospitals.

Thailand has also banned the entry of visitors from India, with the exception of its own citizens. The ban, to take effect May 1, was announced Monday by the Thai Embassy in New Delhi as India sets daily global records for new infections.

Thai citizens seeking to return home will be allowed in on repatriation flights.

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