UPDATE 1-Thailand plans to close bars, schools, halt cockfights to curb coronavirus

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BANGKOK, March 16 (Reuters) - Thailand plans to close down schools, bars, movie theatres, cockfighting arenas and other entertainment centres to curb the spread of coronavirus as well as to postpone next month's Thai New Year holiday to limit travel, officials said on Monday.

The planned measures come after new cases jumped by nearly threefold in the space of a week and reached 147.

The government will ask the cabinet on Tuesday to approve closing of universities, public and private schools, kick-boxing rings, cockfighting arenas, bars and theatres nationwide, deputy government spokeswoman Ratchada Thanadirek said on Twitter.

Cockfighting is legal and hugely popular in Thailand.

The government also plans to postpone the traditional Songkran new year holiday, which falls on April 13 to 15, to limit travel inside and outside of the country for the traditional water festival.

Restaurants likely would be allowed to remain open if they took precautions on social distancing, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said.

But he added that two clusters of infections linked to a bar and a crowded boxing match showed the need to limit public gatherings.

"In this situation, prevention and treatment are the number one priorities. We have to prioritize people's lives over tourism and economic impacts. We don't know how tough the upcoming battle will be," Wissanu said.

He also recommended that government employees work from home if they can.

The new measures were decided on by a special coronavirus task force chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Thailand reported 33 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing its total tally to 147. One person has died of the virus in Thailand.

(Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Toby Chopra and Nick Macfie)

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