BANGKOK: Thailand is preparing to reopen department stores and various business venues nationwide from Sunday (May 17) as the COVID-19 situation in the country continues to improve, according to the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
CCSA spokesperson Dr Thaweesilp Wisanuyothin said on Friday that further relaxation of the lockdown measures was necessary for the economy, but admitted there was concern about a second wave of the pandemic.
“The situation will be assessed regularly based on data of the implementation of various measures,” he said.
From Sunday, department stores and community malls in Thailand will be allowed to resume operations between 10am and 8pm. However, certain businesses at the premises such as cinemas, skating rinks, bowling alleys, spas and massage parlours will remain closed.
Restaurants and cafes in office buildings, as well as food courts, will also benefit from the further relaxation although alcohol sale will be banned at the venues.
Other businesses and activities that can resume operations include big retail and wholesale stores, indoor sport centres and gyms. However, only non-contact sports and team sports with maximum of three players will be allowed. They include badminton, table tennis, yoga, squash and rock climbing.
“As for fitness studios, only free weight exercises can resume. Group exercises, treadmills, cycling machines, elliptical trainers and other workout machines will still be banned," Dr Thaweesilp said.
Swimming pools will be able to reopen from Sunday as well but venue operators are required to limit the number of users and duration of exercise. However, according to Dr Thaweesilp, boxing stadiums, martial arts schools and gyms, water parks, natural water gardens and water sports will be excluded from the partial relaxation.
Besides easing certain lockdown restrictions, the Thai government will also shorten the nationwide curfew by an hour. Starting from Sunday, the curfew will last from 11pm to 4am.
On Friday, the CCSA reported seven new COVID-19 patients, bringing the total number of cases in Thailand to 3,025. The seven new cases include six men and a woman - all detected in quarantine facilities after returning from Pakistan on May 7.
So far, Thai health officials have discharged 2,854 COVID-19 patients from hospitals. Fifty-six people have died and 115 patients are still admitted.
Citing data from the public health ministry, Dr Thaweesilp presented three future scenarios of the pandemic in Thailand by Sep 30.
- In the first scenario, where the government maintains the current COVID-19 control policies, Thailand is expected to report 3 new cases per day, with 15 patients in critical conditions.
- In the second scenario, where certain policies are relaxed, the country could report 24 new infections on a daily basis, with 105 patients in critical conditions.
- In the third scenario, with most policies relaxed, Thailand could report 65 new patients per day, with 289 patients in critical conditions.
“The second scenario seems like the best option,” he said.