Following a recent drop in new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19), officials in Thailand have announced plans to reopen businesses in certain areas at the beginning of next month. As a precaution, the Government appears to favour reopening slowly and in isolated pockets, rather than clearing away the closures all at once and risking a relapse.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha chaired a meeting with health officials earlier this week that considered a roadmap for reopening nationwide. Following the discussions, Dr. Amorn Leelarasamee, who is president of the Medical Association of Thailand, addressed the nation to confirm the lifting of certain restrictions, provided social distancing and hygiene protocols continue to be practiced.
According to the government plan, Friday 1st May has been earmarked as the date for reopening the province of Chonburi. Provided the current situation does not worsen during April, it would make Chonburi the first area in Thailand to return to a semblance of normal operations. If successful, other regions could follow.
Dr. Amorn advised that arrivals in Thailand should continue to be placed under quarantine for the time being, and entertainment venues such as bars and restaurants should be the last to reopen. Although the proposals offer only incremental progress towards reopening, they represent a major shift in government policy, which until recently has been focused firmly on closures and curfews to contain the spread of the virus.
Chonburi, which is home to the popular resort city of Pattaya, expects to open many local businesses – including spas, gyms, restaurants, bars and convenience stores – from May onwards. Several small businesses in the province have already been given permission to resume trading, with mobile phone repair shops and other local stores allowed to reopen immediately.
For those working in the tourism industry under the strain of COVID-19 restrictions, the news comes as a welcome relief. This is the first time since restrictions were imposed that momentum in the government response has swung from containment towards recovery. Hopefully, such positive trends will continue marching forward over the coming weeks, allowing tourism in Thailand to get back on its feet.
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