PTT to maintain gas outputEnergy policymakers have ordered national oil and gas conglomerate PTT Plc to continue gas production in Myanmar during the Songkran holiday to avoid an electricity interruption from surging demand from home workers. Imported gas from Myanmar's Yadana, Yetagun and Zawtika blocks account for 25% of the total gas volume in PTT's gas pipeline. Normally most producers schedule a shutdown in gas production during the Songkran holiday to do maintenance and repairs. ERC secretary-general Khomgrich Tantravanich said although power demand is low as malls and offices are closed, this may be offset by the many people working from home. Mr Khomgrich said the scheduled shutdown of gas production next month includes France's Total for the Yadana block and Malaysia's Petronas for the Yetagun block, while PTT Exploration and Production Plc operates the Zawtika block.
"We will have to continue asking for more public cooperation to achieve the 90% travel cut goal to flatten the curve of new infections. So far we've only achieved a 40% cut on average," Dr Taweesin said. Thailand yesterday recorded a total of 136 new infections, bringing the accumulated number of confirmed cases to 1,524, with two more deaths. Of the total 1,524 cases, Dr Anupong said, 1,297 were Thai and 227 were foreigners. The accumulated number of confirmed cases, however, remained significantly lower than in the US, Italy, China, Iran and neighbouring Malaysia, he said.
Thai FA slashes salaries of Nishino, other employeesThailand coach Akira Nishino during a match last year. Varuth HirunyathebThe Football Association of Thailand (FAT) yesterday announced it was cutting salaries of its employees in order to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak which has brought all sporting events in the country to a standstill. The decision also affects Thailand national team coach Akira Nishino among others. They have to pay salaries to their players, coaches and the other team officials they hire. This pandemic actually has the potential of hurting the entire football setup in Thailand," Somyot said.
13 asset firms to offer extra unitsA total asset value worth 60 billion baht for the "Super Savings Fund extra", offered by 13 asset management companies, is expected to help shore up investment volume in Thailand's stock market, says the Association of Investment Management Companies (AIMC). Of the 15 asset management companies offering Super Savings Fund investment units, which are separated into a total of 20 Super Savings Fund extra and 52 Super Savings Fund regular units, 13 asset management companies are prepared to offer extra unit purchases tomorrow, said AIMC chairman Vasin Vanichvoranun. The Securities and Exchange Commission approved 17 Super Savings Fund extra assets as of March 30. The Finance Ministry will be asked to extend the unit purchase period for Super Savings Fund extra given the bourse has deteriorated further, he said. Super Savings Fund investment conditions are more relaxed than those for LTFs, as Super Savings Fund units can invest in any assets, while LTFs stipulate equities as the major investment asset.
Ministry defers SMEs' debt paymentsThe Industry Ministry will suspend debt payments for 12 months for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) affected by the Covid-19 outbreak who borrowed money from the 20-billion-baht Pracha Rat fund. "The cabinet has approved the rescue measures by suspending debt payments for 12 months for SMEs to fight the spread of Covid-19 and the drought crisis," he said. He said the rescue measure will cover many provinces such as Bangkok, Samut Prakran, Songkla, Samut Sakhon, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom and Phuket. In February, the Industry Ministry teamed up with state agencies and business operators to help over 100,000 businesses access financing through the Pracha Rat fund. The Industry Ministry recently announced it plans to roll out rescue measures by suspending debt payments for 6-12 months for 2,500 small community enterprises and SMEs through a revolving fund for household industries and handicrafts.
Arnun ChonmahatrakoolThe coronavirus pandemic took an obvious toll on domestic investment and the tourism sector in February, but consumption remained resilient, according to a senior official at the Fiscal Policy Office (FPO). Private investment momentum was sluggish last month, with an 18.1% year-on-year contraction in commercial truck sales and a 10.2% fall in capital goods imports, said FPO deputy director-general Wuttipong Jittungsakul, attributing the contraction to concerns over coronavirus infections. However, investment in the building sector improved as cement sales contracted only 1.9% year-on-year in February from 5% in January. The capital goods import contraction aligned with exports, which shrank 4.5% on year in February after 3.3% growth in January, said Mr Wuttipong. Consumer confidence last month fell to 52.5 points on concerns that the pandemic would affect tourism, people's lifestyle and the economy.
No boxing on the boxDeputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam yesterday asked TV operators to cancel boxing match broadcasts throughout April to curb the spread of Covid-19. Boxing organisers may argue that no spectators are allowed, but the virus can be transmitted among TV audiences too, he said. "People may gather at a house to cheer, eat and drink [and not practice social distancing]," Mr Wissanu said.
Manu Dibango. This is what Dibango told me: "Well, there are two issues. At that time, Dibango had not pursued legal action but a few years after this Jackson settled with Dibango out of court. Later the issue would resurface when Rhianna asked Jackson for permission to use the riff, Jackson gave permission without asked Dibango first. I was very nervous as I began my first interview with an African music legend.
Amazon, Instacart workers protest over virus safetyAmazon workers at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse stage a walkout to demand that the facility be shut down and cleaned after one staffer tested positive for the coronavirusNEW YORK - Amazon warehouse employees and Instacart delivery shoppers joined protests Monday to press safety demands, highlighting the risks for workers on the front lines of supplying Americans largely sheltering at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "There are positive cases working in these buildings infecting thousands," warehouse worker Christian Smalls wrote on Twitter. It was not immediately clear how many of Instacart "shoppers" who are independent "gig" workers, were participating in the stoppage. The group calling itself "Whole Worker" said it was seeking guaranteed paid leave for quarantined workers, among other things. A report by NBC News said Amazon workers at two Southern California warehouses had presented demands to shut down the facilities for two weeks for sterilization while employees are tested for the virus.
The government yesterday assured healthcare personnel and state officials and volunteers at high risk of contracting the new coronavirus that they will now have a sufficient supply of face masks. In a distribution system he pledged was now totally accountable, Mr Wissanu said 40 Thailand Post lorries have been assigned to transport the face masks from the factories to their destinations. Those receiving face masks from the Interior Ministry include health volunteers and local health officials monitoring people undergoing self-quarantine in the provinces, he said. Others eligible to receive free face masks from the ministry include refuse collectors and security officials working at checkpoints across the country. Therefore, if the country is projected to have 10,000 more infections to treat, 500,000 more N95 masks will be needed, he added.
Help Thais come homeAs the tough war against the coronavirus gets under way, the Prayut Chan-o-cha government is facing growing calls to review flight check-in directives that make it difficult for Thais abroad wishing to come home. This requirement has caused a major stir as Thais abroad, both students and travellers, have found it impractical and nigh impossible to secure the necessary medical paperwork to gain a certificate from embassies. It has been suggested that these stringent measures were implemented to actively deter Thais from returning and placing a further burden on health authorities that are already working hard to contain the virus. More importantly, the authorities should review the directive on the grounds that the risk can be managed through stringent measures like self-quarantine. Take a look at the group of Thai students under the American Field Service cultural exchange programme who came back from Italy on March 15.
Several forest fires in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park were deliberately started to cause trouble, according to environment minister Varawut Silpa-archa. "Some of the fires at Doi Suthep-Pui National Park in Chiang Mai were the result of villagers burning forest to aid foraging. Most of the bushfires in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park had been put out on Monday. Chiang Mai provincial governor Charoenrit Sanguansat said almost all bushfires in the park had been doused with water dropped by helicopters. He said park fires on Doi Pha Dam and others in tambon Ban Pong in Hang Dong district which had raged for a week have been brought under control.
Italy extends lockdown until 'at least' April 12Italy has extended its sweeping lockdown until at least mid-April to stem COVID-19 infectionsROME - Italy on Monday extended an economically crippling lockdown until "at least" mid-April to stem coronavirus infections that have claimed a world-leading 11,591 lives. Its own toll grew by 812 on Monday and the number of infections reported by the civil protection service surpassed 100,000. But fresh evidence also suggested that COVID-19 was spreading more slowly than when the first victim died in Italy on February 21. Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri said the latest data showed that Italy might see "a drop in the number of people infected within seven to 10 days". The latest data was released nearly three weeks into a national lockdown that has emptied cities and paralysed most business activity.
March 30, 2020 18:56 UTC
A policeman administers a fever check to a motorist on Suwinthawong Road in Bangkok on Thursday. (Photo by Varuth Hiranyatheb)As many as 27 Bangkok police officers have contracted Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Bangkok’s police chief said on Monday. Pol Lt Gen Pakkapong said 326 others were in quarantine waiting for test results. One of the infected officers is the deputy traffic police chief of Taling Chan district and people close to him have already been quarantined, he added. The Public Health Ministry is investigating how he caught the virus, but Pol Lt Gen Pakkapong insisted the deputy traffic chief had not contracted the disease from a Covid-19 screening point.
March 30, 2020 14:15 UTC
Parents rush to fly kids home from USThirty-four Thai students from Pakistan are checked in Yala province before being quarantined for 14 days after they returned home. (Photo supplied by Wassana Nanuam)Parents are rushing to bring Thai students back home from the United States after the country overtook China and Italy to record the highest number of infections worldwide with more than 142,000. "I decided to bring him back after his school closed first for two weeks and then until the next semester. Meanwhile, 34 Thai students studying in Pakistan have returned to Yala. Dr Songkran Maichum, the provincial health chief, said the students would be quarantined at the centre for 14 days.
March 30, 2020 12:56 UTC