Thailand to reopen some businesses as new coronavirus cases slow

People wait for orders as street food vendors serve takeaway in Chinatown, Bangkok on April 17, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thailand will start reopening on Sunday (May 3) some businesses, such as outdoor markets, barber shops and pet groomers, after the numbers of new coronavirus infections dropped into single digits this week, a government spokesman said.

The South-east Asian nation reported seven new infections but no deaths on Thursday, taking its tally since the outbreak began in January to 2,954 cases, with the death toll staying at 54.

Even after Sunday's reopening, a nighttime curfew and ban on sales of alcohol will stay until the end of May unless otherwise specified, said Mr Taweesin Wisanuyothin of the government's Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

Among the six categories set to reopen are small retailers, street food stalls and restaurants outside shopping malls, and parks and outdoor sports facilities, he told a news conference.

But department stores, movie theatres, gyms and spas, as well as most indoor sports venues will stay closed, to ensure there are no large gatherings.

Thailand this week extended an emergency decree until the end of May, effectively prolonging some measures already in place.

These include a ban on incoming international passenger flights, Mr Taweesin said, as well as the alcohol ban ordered on April 10.

"Unless changes are announced, alcohol sales will not happen at this time," he said. Services at barber shops would be limited to cutting, washing and blow-drying of hair, he added.

Four consecutive days of new infections in the single digits prompted the government to drop the curbs on some businesses.

Now it will watch the situation for the next 14 days to decide whether to free up more businesses or clamp down again to contain the virus.

"If the number of infections stays stable, we will ease restrictions further," Mr Taweesin said. "But if the number rises to double or triple digits again, we will have to reassess everything."

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