NY planning begins
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NY planning begins

Businesses welcome easing of Covid rules

People shop for gifts for the festive season at Sampheng market in Samphanthawong district, Bangkok, last Friday. (Photo: Apichit Jinakul)
People shop for gifts for the festive season at Sampheng market in Samphanthawong district, Bangkok, last Friday. (Photo: Apichit Jinakul)

The country's major tourist cities -- Bangkok, Pattaya in Chon Buri, Phuket and Chiang Mai -- are in planning mode for New Year festivities after the government further relaxed Covid-19 control measures, including extending the alcohol serving time to 1am on New Year's Eve.

The rule relaxation by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) was welcomed by tourism operators and other businesses in these major tourist destinations.

Pattaya City is organising New Year's celebrations from Dec 29-31 at its iconic Bali Hai Pier where popular artists will entertain the nighttime crowds, said Sonthaya Khunpluem, the city mayor.

Among the artists will be Kunpimook Bhuwakul, alias BamBam Got7, the popular Thai rapper based in South Korea, said Mr Sonthaya, adding that a second New Year celebration site will be held on Koh Lan. "The CCSA has made us smile again. This will bring in income after a long time of being hit by Covid-19," said Wasan Sanguanthoikham, owner of an entertainment venue in Pattaya.

A meeting was called on Wednesday to brief business operators on what they can and cannot do during the New Year festival, said Bun-anan Phatthanasin, president of Pattaya City's business and tourism association.

In Bangkok, Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the CCSA's decision to ease Covid-19 restrictions for the coming New Year celebrations.

"This CCSA's announcement has not only brought confidence to people eager to celebrate the festival but for business operators as well, especially given how the Covid-19 situation is improving in the country," he said.

Mr Sanan urged the government to accelerate Covid-19 immunisation in the provinces to boost confidence in the country's ability to deal with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Sa-nga Ruangwatthanakul, president of the association of business operators on Khao San Road, now expects some 10,000 people, twice the usual number of visitors on a busy night.

Phuket aims to offer revellers the maximum time limit in terms of celebrating New Year's Eve with alcohol. Phichet Panaphong, deputy provincial governor, said a provincial order had been issued to extend the alcohol serving time at restaurants from 11pm to 6am on Dec 31.

The order was given after the region saw a decline in the number of new Covid-19 infections coupled with a rise in vaccination coverage, said Thanusak Pheungdet, president of Phuket's Chamber of Commerce.

In Chiang Mai, five select districts, namely Muang, Mae Rim, Mae Taeng, Doi Tao and Chom Thong can serve alcohol until 1am on New Year's Eve.

More than 500 restaurants have been certified after passing the government's Covid-Free Setting standard and are allowed to serve alcohol, while another 500 restaurant operators hope to pass the Covid-19 safety certification requirements in time for New Year.

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