Chatuchak back to life after 48 days

Masks, fever checkpoints and washing stations part of the new normal at major Bangkok attraction

Shoppers visit Chatuchak Market in Bangkok after it reopened on Saturday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Vendors and shoppers are bustling about again at Bangkok’s most famous weekend market after a 48-day closure, with strict rules in place for everyone to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Chatuchak Market reopened its gates on Saturday after being shuttered on March 22 by a City Hall order, along with other markets in the capital.

It was one of the 11 markets managed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to reopen. Others started welcoming customers last week after the government eased restrictions on markets and small vendors. 

A foreign visitor helps with the wrapping of a purchase from a stall at Chatuchak Market on Saturday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Since Chatuchak has 10,334 vendors and numerous new rules are now in force, not all of them were ready to resume operations on Saturday. 

In the first stage, the market is open from 5am to 6pm. Small stalls and hawkers around the clock tower square, as well as the night section, remain closed due to the curfew (10pm to 4am), which has been extended nationwide for a second month.

BMA officials, led by deputy governor Wallaya Wattanarat, said several preventive measures have been put in place.

All people must wear face masks. Six fever checkpoints, equipped with disinfectants and washbasins, are set up at all eight gates, three of which are open to vehicles. All eight restrooms are cleaned every two hours.

Washbasins are set up at at fever checkpoints at the market gates as part of the measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. (Photo supplied by Supoj Wancharoen)

Ready-to-eat food vendors must use clear partitions or lidded bowls for their food, which must be covered at all times. Those with dine-in corners must use partitions and apply social distancing, with patrons seated one to two metres apart.

The number of patrons at any one time is also limited to five for small shops and 10 for large ones.

Violations will result in written warnings and, if there is a repeat, the shop will be shuttered.

Vendors are subjected to additional rules. All must tie up their hair and wear gloves and caps. Masks must be worn properly, covering both the nose and mouth. They must stop selling and go see a doctor as soon as they feel sick with a fever, runny nose, shortness of breath, or when they cough or sneeze.

A customer buys a drink on the first day of the Chatuchak Market reopening on Saturday. (Photo supplied by Supoj Wancharoen)

Sellers must not allow customers to touch fresh food such as meat and seafood.

Stalls must be cleaned with detergent and disinfectants such as 0.1% bleach every day before they are closed.

Personal hygiene must also be observed -- no touching of the face, eyes, mouth and nose, and frequent hand washing with soap or 70% alcohol before and after being in the market or using restrooms.

To initially help vendors cope with the impact of the six-week closure, the BMA has waived rents for three months from March.

City Hall also asked the State Railway of Thailand, which owns the land, for a nine-month rent waiver from March to November but has yet to receive a reply. 

BMA officials have asked for cooperation from both vendors and shoppers in observing hygiene and distancing rules, saying it may be forced to consider closing the market if violations are found.

A garment shop opens its doors again on Saturday. (Photo supplied by Supoj Wancharoen)

A motorcyclist stops for a fever check at one of three vehicle checkpoints around the market. (Photo supplied by Supoj Wancharoen)