BANGKOK (April 25): Thailand on Sunday set a record for the daily number of Covid-19 deaths for the second consecutive day, just as authorities step up the response to a rapid third wave of infection after about a year of relative success slowing the novel coronavirus’ spread.

The government reported 2,438 new coronavirus cases and 11 new deaths, bringing the total number of infections to 55,460 and fatalities to 140 since the pandemic started last year.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on his Facebook page on Saturday said provincial governors could close public venues and impose curfews if necessary to stop the virus spreading.

Authorities in the capital city of Bangkok have ordered the closure of venues including parks, gyms, cinemas, and day-care centres from April 26 through May 9.

Shopping malls remain open but the Thai Retailers Association has restricted store opening hours in Bangkok as well as in 17 more of the country’s 73 provinces.

Thailand kept its number of infection cases far lower than many other countries throughout last year, but a new outbreak, spurred partly by the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant, has resulted in over 24,000 cases and 46 deaths in just 25 days.

The rising figures have prompted concern over the number of hospital beds, particularly as government policy is to admit anyone testing positive for the novel coronavirus, even those without symptoms.

Health officials have insisted there are still over 20,000 available beds nationwide.

To free beds quicker, the prime minister has said health authorities are considering reducing the quarantine period for asymptomatic cases to 10 days from 14, with the remaining four days to be spent in self-isolation at home.