BANGKOK (Kyodo) -- Thailand extended a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic until the end of July on Tuesday as it prepares for the reopening of schools and at-risk businesses, as well as the easing of restrictions on travel to the country by foreign visitors.
It is the second extension of the decree, which originally was slated to end May 31. Virus cases have remained low in the country, with no community transmission detected for over a month, leading to criticism of the government's continuing use of special powers.
Ahead of Tuesday's Cabinet approval of the extension, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Monday the state of emergency is still needed to get a handle on the pandemic as a new school term begins on Wednesday and some businesses, such as bars and pubs, are also being allowed to reopen.
Meanwhile, a small group of the Student Union of Thailand on Tuesday protested the decree's extension accusing the government of being addicted to power.
Thailand continues to ban passenger flights. But the government will allow some travelers, such as businesspeople, foreign investors and the spouses of Thai nationals, to fly into the country and go into quarantine for 14 days at their own expense.
Some businesspeople and government guests who plan to stay in Thailand for just a short time, will not be required to go into state-mandated quarantine as long as they travel according to rigorous schedules and to limited destinations. But, they will only be allowed to travel by private car.
Thailand originally declared a state of emergency on March 25, ordering people to stay at home and avoid gathering in groups to stem the virus's spread. A nighttime curfew was canceled in the middle of this month.
The government's Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, which handles the country's response to the pandemic, began easing restrictions in early May following a decline in infections.
The country has so far reported 3,171 virus cases and 58 fatalities.