Govt mulls easing more curbs

Govt mulls easing more curbs

Malls, large retailers next on reopen list

A train is about to depart Siam Station. City inspectors were roped in to help keep order and assist commuters at the BTS station. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
A train is about to depart Siam Station. City inspectors were roped in to help keep order and assist commuters at the BTS station. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

Shopping malls and large retail outlets selling construction materials will be allowed to reopen as lockdown mea­sures are eased further on May 17 if there is no surge in new infections.

China and South Korea will also be the first countries to be removed from a list of the government's dangerous communicable disease zones.

The issues were discussed at a meeting of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday.

Gen Prayut stressed that mea­sures to assist people must be done with care and must not overlook anyone affected.

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, the CCSA spokesman, said the centre will gather opinions about the next round of disease control relaxation from today until next Tuesday and draft the relaxation measures next Thursday. "The next stage of relaxation will begin on May 17 unless the number of new Covid-19 cases soars," he said.

After the first round of relaxation and reopening of small premises on Sunday, the second round of easing and reopening of bigger premises will depend on cooperation from the public and operators.

"If the situation is brought under control, shopping malls will be allowed to reopen. If each business can maintain [strict social distancing] measures, malls and other businesses can also resume operations. However, this also depends on cooperation from the people," Dr Taweesilp said.

Sukhum Karnchanapimai, permanent secretary for public health, said large retail outlets selling construction materials and furniture may also be allowed to reopen in the next stage because buildings and houses in several provinces have been destroyed and damaged by natural disasters and their owners badly need to buy new materials.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration will meet the Public Health Ministry today to determine which businesses will be allowed to reopen in the second stage of easing.

Moreover, the CCSA agreed with a proposal by Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul that countries where the Covid-19 crisis has eased can be removed from the government's list of dangerous communicable disease zones. Mr Anutin told the meeting the proposed de-listing will help normalise Thailand's relations with them.

However, it was also agreed that the de-listing process must be gradual and that people from those de-listed countries will not be allowed to enter Thailand straight away.

The CCSA will need to discuss necessary measures to handle them and prevent the spread of imported infections, Dr Taweesilp said.

The CCSA agreed to maintain restrictions on Thai returnees and efforts to curb crowded gatherings which are the main factors in Covid-19 infections in the country. "Most local infection cases in the country came from infected returnees and people in close contact with them," he said.

"Covid-19 is spreading in other countries and those that ease their disease-control measures experience a new wave of infections," Dr Taweesilp added.

The first group allowed to return home will be those who are ill, stranded at airports or have expired visas, as well as those who are tourists stranded in other countries. The next group will be monks on pilgrimages, students and laid-off workers, he said.

Meanwhile, the CCSA on Thursday reported three new coronavirus cases, all Thais, bringing the total in Thailand to 2,992. No additional deaths were reported, leaving the accumulated toll at 55.

Dr Taweesilp said one new case was a Thai housewife aged 59 in the southern province of Yala. The two other cases were Thai men, workers aged 46 and 51, who had returned from Kazakhstan.

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