Thais seek sun and surf as officials reopen some beaches

Thais seek sun and surf as officials reopen some beaches

Pattaya beach reopened
People take a dip in the water at the main beach in Pattaya on Jun 1, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Mladen Antonov)

PATTAYA: People returned to some of Thailand's famed sandy beaches Monday (Jun 1), keeping well apart but enjoying the outdoors, as authorities eased some COVID-19 restrictions for the first time in more than two months.

In Pattaya, visitors marvelled at the clarity of the turquoise-blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand, as pensioners eager for exercise promenaded along the beach.

Social distancing rules still applied, with local authorities ordering beachgoers to stay at least 1m apart.

German expatriate Heidi Glemeau, one of the first people who took an early morning dip in the water, said she stopped at the sight of the empty, open beach on her way to the bank.

"I couldn't resist the temptation," she told AFP. "It's become a paradise just like it was 30 years ago."

READ: Thailand passes record stimulus package to combat COVID-19 impact

Pattaya beach reoopens after COVID-19 lockdown
People have drinks by the beach in Pattaya on Jun 1, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Mladen Antonov)

Not all beaches were closed during the lockdown, and not all reopened Monday.

Phuket, in the south, is still off-limits, while sleepy Hua Hin remained open throughout.

Thailand has been under various lockdown restrictions since mid-March, when authorities declared a state of emergency against the coronavirus - shuttering malls, leisure centres and public spaces, including its famed beaches.

Despite recording the first case of the virus outside epicentre China as early as January, official records show the kingdom escaped the worst of the disease relatively lightly, recording just over 3,000 infections and 57 deaths.

Some experts say, however, a lack of testing may mask the true toll.

READ: Walls close in on Thailand's poorest as virus shrivels economy

People enjoy the beach in Pattaya
People enjoy the beach in Pattaya on Jun 1, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Mladen Antonov)

Regardless, the exodus of foreigners and a ban on new arrivals hit the economy hard - particularly as the country is so reliant on tourist dollars in resorts such as Pattaya.

Tourism revenues dropped by 40 per cent in the first three months of the year, and the government has warned the virus' impact on the second quarter will be more severe.

A major tourist destination with an infamous nightlife and red-light district, Pattaya has turned into a virtual ghost town.

Bars and clubs remain shuttered, however, and it is not clear when normal activity will resume.

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Source: AFP/zl

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