Restaurants in Bangkok will be allowed to sell alcohol starting on Monday, as the capital has been designated a "blue" tourist zone with fewer Covid restrictions, alongside Krabi, Phangnga and Phuket.
But even as authorities prepare to ease up on some Covid rules, they are taking steps to keep anti-government protesters at bay as the reopening to international visitors approaches.
An announcement published on the Royal Gazette on Friday bans any public gathering "in a manner that could spread the virus". Violators face two years' imprisonment and/or a fine of not more than 40,000 baht. The announcement, signed by Gen Chalermpol Srisawasdi as head of a Covid-19 team, takes effect on Monday.
Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said on Friday that CCSA had approved key changes to coronavirus control zoning, which also included a drastic cut in the number of dark-red provinces for maximum control to seven from 23.
"We are already familiar with Krabi, Phangnga and Phuket which have been the sandbox provinces for the country reopening. ... Bangkok is included here," Dr Taweesilp said.
However, he said it was up to provincial authorities in the four blue provinces, including the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, to impose some restrictive measures as approproiate to ensure safety.
The capital, currently a dark-red zone, reported 802 new cases and 12 deaths on Thursday. The full-vaccination rate in Greater Bangkok was 64.85%, according to the CCSA data on Friday.
Chanthaburi, Tak, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Songkhla will continue to be in the dark-red zone, Dr Taweesilp added.
The number of red provinces with fewer controls will increase to 38 from 30 while the orange provinces have been reduced by one to 23.
The red zones will be Kanchanaburi, Khon Kaen, Chon Buri, Chumphon, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Chachoengsao, Trang, Trat, Nakhon Pathom, Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Sawan, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Prachin Buri, Ayutthaya, Phatthalung, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Phetchaburi, Phetchabun, Rayong, Rayong, Ratchaburi, Lop Buri, Satun, Samut Prakan, Samut Songkhram, Samut Sakhon, Saraburi, Sa Kaeo, Suphan Buri, Surat Thani, Ang Thong, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani.
The orange zones will consist of Kalasin, Kamphaeng Phet, Chai Nat, Chaiyaphum, Buri Ram, Phayao, Phrae, Maha Sarakham, Mae Hong Son, Yasothon, Roi Et, Lampang, Lamphun, Loei, Sing Buri, Sukhothai, Surin, Nong Khai, Nong Bua Lam Phu, Uttaradit, Uthai Thani, Amnat Charoen and Si Sa Ket.
Five provinces will be designated yellow — those under high surveillance — compared to none at present. They will be Nakhon Phanom, Nan, Bung Kan, Mukdahan and Sakon Nakhon which were in the northern and northeastern borders, Dr Taweesilp said.
Control measures vary depending on the zones.
Starting Monday, the curfew from 11pm to 3am will apply only in the dark-red provinces.
Working from home in the dark-red zones will apply to at least 70% of the government workforce and the private sector can go beyond that. Elsewhere, the rates will be flexible, except for Greater Bangkok, where at least 70% of the workforce will be required to work from home.
Gatherings will be limited at 50 people in the dark-red zones, 200 in the red zones, 500 in the orange zones and 1,000 in yellow zones. There will be no gathering restrictions in the blue zones.
Schools can reopen and many activities can resume in the dark-red and red zones with permission from authorities. Schools can reopen as usual in other zones.
Daycare centres for children and elderly people can reopen in the dark-red zones if approved by provincial communicable disease committees. Such facilities can operate normally elsewhere.
Sports facilities can open until 10pm in the dark-red provinces where spectators will be banned at indoor stadiums and limited at 25% of seating capacities for open facilities.
They can open until 11pm in the red zones, where spectators will be limited at 25% at indoor stadiums and 50% at open air facilities.
Elsewhere, such places can open normally but spectators will be limited at 50% at indoor stadiums and 75% at open air facilities in the orange zones and at 75% at indoor stadiums in the yellow zones where viewers' restriction will be lifted at open stadiums.
There will be no restrictions in the blue zones.
Theatres will limit viewers to 50% of seating capacities at air-conditioned facilities and 75% at open places in the dark-red zones and at 75% at air-conditioned theatres in the red zones. There will be no restrictions elsewhere.
Exhibition and convention venues can accommodate meetings with no more than 500 participants in the dark-red zones.
Shopping centres can open until 10pm in the dark-red zones without promotional events, game arcades and amusement and water parks.
Elsewhere, they can open normally but without promotional events and amusement and water parks in red zones. Those in orange zones can reopen outdoors amusement and water parks. There will be no restrictions elsewhere.
Convenience stores and markets can open until 10pm in the dark-red zones where game arcades and amusement parks can reopen with permission from provincial communicable disease committees. There will not be such restrictions elsewhere.
Eateries can open until 10pm in the dark-red zones where customers will be limited at 50% of seating capacities at air-conditioned places and 75% at non-air-conditioned places. Seating limitations will be lifted elsewhere. The closing hour was set at 11pm in the red zones.
Alcohol sales and consumption will be banned in the dark-red, red and orange zones and allowed in yellow and blue zones.
Beauty salons, massage and spa parlours, beauty clinics and tattoo parlours can open until 10pm in the dark-red zones.