Thai economic outlook among Asia’s weakest

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Thailand is preparing to restrict some aspects of daily life after the country’s biggest spike in coronavirus cases, further damaging one of Asia’s weakest economic outlooks.

The steps to be considered Monday include placing more curbs on foreign arrivals, cancelling events with big crowds and closing entertainment venues deemed risky for spreading the virus. Confirmed cases jumped by 32 on Sunday to 114, sparking fears of a bigger outbreak and some panic buying of groceries. The Thai economy was already reeling from a collapse in the critical tourism sector amid lock-downs worldwide to slow the transmission of the disease known as Covid-19. A drought and delayed public spending are additional blows, leaving Thailand with the highest odds of recession among Asian nations — at 30% — after Japan, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “We may need a sudden stop of economic activity, like China, as it proved effective in tackling the spread,” said Somprawin Manprasert, chief economist at Bank of Ayudhya Plc, a Thai unit of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. “With such disruption, the economy will likely contract this year.”

Sunday’s abrupt jump in virus cases raised the specter of widespread community transmission of the kind that sickened thousands of people in nations such as China, South Korea, Iran and Italy. Gen Prayut said Sunday that officials are mulling contingency options in case infections climb, such as setting up a hospital specifically for Covid-19 patients. Operators of riskier entertainment venues like pubs and sports stadiums could be ordered to close, he said. “Today, health is the most important issue,” he told reporters in Bangkok. Tourism accounts for about a fifth of the economy, but the government estimates arrivals may drop 24% from last year, to 30 million people.

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