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Thailand bans public gatherings to fight coronavirus

Policemen wearing face masks to protect themselves from the new coronavirus at a health checkpoint in Bangkok, Thailand, on April 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Thailand has banned all public gatherings to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

    The order signed Friday by Chief of Defense Forces Gen. Pornpipat Benyasri prohibits people from public gatherings, carrying out activities, or gathering for unlawful purposes in a manner that risks spreading the coronavirus.

    It also bans any act that aggravates people's suffering and pranks to spread the virus. That's an apparent reference to anti-social actions such as spreading saliva on elevator buttons.

    Family gatherings at residences and civic activities carried out according to safe social distancing guidelines are allowed.

    Violation of the order carried a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and a fine of 40,000 baht ($1,213).

    A nationwide begins at 10 p.m. Friday night.

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