Firms urge extra relief

Firms urge extra relief

Fears for jobs amid expanded lockdown

A man waits for a bus at Sanam Luang before the curfew starts at 9pm on July 12, 2012. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)
A man waits for a bus at Sanam Luang before the curfew starts at 9pm on July 12, 2012. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

Business leaders have called on the government to come up with additional relief measures to ease the plight of people affected by the expanded lockdown measures which will take effect on Tuesday.

The government will extend the existing curfew and other tight restrictions in Greater Bangkok and the four southern border provinces until at least Aug 2, and add three more provinces to the list, it decided on Sunday.

The curfew from 9pm-4am and other restrictions have been in force since last Monday in the "dark red'' provinces -- Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Pathum Thani and Nakhon Pathom -- as well as the southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla and Yala.

Starting on Tuesday, the measures will also be imposed in three more provinces -- Chon Buri, Chachoengsao and Ayutthaya -- according to the Royal Gazette published on Saturday, bringing the total number of provinces placed under lockdown to 13.

The expanded measures have drawn mixed responses from business leaders. Some said the expanded measures were acceptable while others thought they would only worsen the economy further.

Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said the new measures are acceptable to the private sector as long as they are not much different from the existing ones and are only expanded to cover some areas.

"The manufacturing sector has not yet been affected by the lockdown measures, but if any more restrictions are to be imposed, they must be considered carefully,'' he said.

Most importantly, antigen rapid tests must start as soon as possible to screen people for infections as early testing is crucial to containing the spread of Covid-19, Mr Supant said.

But Somchai Pornrattanacharoen, president of the Wholesale and Retail Trade Association, said the expansion of restrictions will only deal a further blow to an economy reeling from the Covid-19 impacts.

"The economy will worsen because the relief measures are unclear. People are losing confidence in the government,'' he said, adding more businesses may have to close and more people will lose their jobs.

Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the private sector wanted clear details of the new measures so operators can plan ahead as manufacturing industries are highly active in the three provinces added to the list. "The measures will affect manufacturing for export which is the only crucial engine driving the economy,'' he said.

"Damage [from the lockdown measures] is initially estimated at between 3-4 billion baht per day or 90-100 billion baht per month, from a previous estimate of 2-3 billion baht per day,'' Mr Sanan said, echoing the view that the government must expedite additional relief measures by using emergency loans.

Kreingkrai Thiennukul, vice chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said the lockdown measures for the latest wave of the pandemic will be felt longer than previous waves.

The expanded restrictions covering 13 provinces and the extension until Aug 2 will cause more economic damage because the provinces affected driven by high rates of economic activity, he said.

The government has said the restrictions will be evaluated after a week, and indicated the lockdown measures would be in place beyond Aug 2 if the pandemic continues to worsen.

Thailand reported a record high of 11,397 new Covid-19 cases and 101 fatalities over the previous 24 hours, the Public Health Ministry reported on Sunday.

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