BMA eases curbs on booze sales

BMA eases curbs on booze sales

More venues to serve drinks until 9pm

People return to Khao San Road, a favourite spot for tourists, in Bangkok early this month. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)
People return to Khao San Road, a favourite spot for tourists, in Bangkok early this month. (Photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya)

More restaurants and eateries will be allowed to serve alcoholic beverages from Tuesday, after the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) agreed to lift restrictions at venues certified by the Department of Health.

As of Tuesday, venues with "Thai Stop Covid Plus" certification will be allowed to serve alcoholic beverages in the same manner as businesses that have SHA (Safety and Health Administration) certification from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the BMA announced on Sunday.

While this means while more venues will be allowed to serve alcohol, the sale of such beverages will still be restricted after 9pm.

In the same announcement, the BMA said game shops and internet cafes will be allowed to reopen as long as they strictly enforce Covid-19 control measures, as most children in the capital have been fully vaccinated against the disease.

The relaxed restrictions will apply until Nov 30, when authorities will meet again to discuss the impact of the easing on infection numbers.

According to the director-general of the Department of Health, Suwanchai Wattanayingcharoenchai, the move was intended to help more businesses reopen.

However, he said, the majority of these venues are actually capable of managing Covid-19 risks, as shown by their Thai Stop Covid Plus certification.

As such, Dr Suwanchai said, they should be allowed to serve alcohol again.

The Thai Stop Covid Plus certification was developed by the Department of Health to help businesses assess if their health and safety measures are up to standard amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Businesses, Dr Suwanchai said, must have a good ventilation system and regularly conduct testing using antigen test kits, the frequency of which should be determined by the risk of exposure to infection sources.

Restaurants and eateries must immediately clean tables and chairs after use, frequently disinfect physical contact points and restrooms, and provide separate cutlery for each customer. In addition, Covid-19 tests must be carried out periodically to ensure the safety of service providers and consumers.

"The [Thai Stop Covid Plus] focus is on the providers and recipients of services and the practices of the businesses," said Sopon Iamsirithaworn, deputy director-general of the Department of Disease Control.

As of Nov 10, 6,579 businesses in Bangkok had obtained SHA certification, while 700 had received SHA Plus certification.

An SHA-certified venue has public health measures in place to prevent contagion, while SHA Plus certification means at least 70% of the staff are vaccinated.

The Thai Restaurant Association welcomed the latest announcement and urged business operators to strictly adhere to disease control measures to keep the virus at bay.

Thaniwan Kulmongkol, president of the association, said more than 30,000 restaurants and eateries are certified as Thai Stop Covid Plus venues, as they have been preparing for the reopening since May this year.

She said that personally she does not see a huge difference between Thai Stop Covid Plus and SHA/SHA Plus systems and urged the government to raise public awareness about the labels and what they mean.

She also called on the government to allow operators to serve alcohol until 11pm, after recent infection figures showed the easing of restrictions did not cause an uptick in new cases.

Currently, restaurants and eateries in Bangkok, Krabi, Phangnga and Phuket with SHA certificates are allowed to serve alcohol until 9pm.

Khao San Business Association president Sanga Ruangwattanakul said the most businesses have put in place Covid-19 control measures that are on par with Thai Stop Covid Plus, even before they were mandated by the government.

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