Thais head home as Malaysia closes

Thais head home as Malaysia closes

Temple cleansing: A worker disinfects a corridor inside Bangkok’s Wat Suthat Thepphawararam, which is popular among devotees and visitors. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Temple cleansing: A worker disinfects a corridor inside Bangkok’s Wat Suthat Thepphawararam, which is popular among devotees and visitors. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Scores of Thais working in Malaysia began returning to their homes in the southern province yesterday, after Malaysia decided to shut its borders in an effort to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.

Border closures were among the control measures announced by Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in a televised address late on Monday. The measures, which come into effect today, will be in place until March 31.

As non-essential businesses have been ordered to shut, many Thai restaurant owners in Malaysia have decided to temporarily send their Thai employees back home until the shutdown ends, a source said.

Yesterday, the border checkpoint in Narathiwat's Sungai Kolok district was crowded with Thais returning from Malaysia.

Returning Thais were required to have their temperatures checked using either a thermal scanner, an infrared camera or a hand-held thermometer gun, said the same source, who added that after the body temperature checks, they were told to clean their hands with a hand sanitiser before they were allowed to go.

Meanwhile in the northeastern province of Buri Ram, which is currently under a month-long "public health lockdown", all rail passengers are required to wash their hands with the provided hand sanitising gels, both prior to boarding and leaving their trains, said Banchong Chanthara, head of the State Railway of Thailand's office in the province.

He said all passengers are also required to enter and leave train stations through a Covid-19 screening station, complete with a thermal scanner.

Charoen Wang-ananon, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, meanwhile, said the association agreed with the government's decision to put off the Songkran festival as part of its Covid-19 containment measures.

When asked about the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the 12,000 tour companies under the association, Mr Charoen said some operators have already laid off employees, while others are struggling to survive the crisis and are waiting for assistance from the government.


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