Shopping malls, gyms and amusement parks, considered high-density venues, are expected to reopen next if the number of new Covid-19 infections continues to drop for another week.
The Public Health Emergency Operation Centre held a meeting with representatives of eight business clusters in the kingdom to discuss preparations for the next stage of easing the coronavirus lockdown.
The meeting was also attended by relevant agencies such as the Interior Ministry, the Tourism and Sports Ministry, the Public Health Ministry, City Hall and local governing bodies.
It resulted in a nod for the reopening of shopping malls, restaurants and food shops in shopping malls, health and wellness businesses including spas and massage parlours, beauty salons, fitness centres and gymnasiums, meeting and seminar convention venues, film production locations, amusement parks and water parks.
However, the number of new cases in the kingdom must stay low for another week before the businesses can reopen.
Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Department of Disease Control and secretary to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), chaired the meeting.
Dr Suwannachai said the meeting was aimed at gathering opinions from those businesses and assessing their readiness to reopen. He said the eight types of businesses are important jigsaw pieces in the economy.
The information-gathering will be assessed and forwarded to the CCSA, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, before the next stage of relaxation.
The government on Friday reported eight new cases of Covid-19, raising the total to 3,000, with no new deaths.
Last week some restaurants, barber shops and salons were allowed to reopen with health safety measures in place to avoid transmission among customers and workers.
Many people have lost their jobs due to the economic repercussions of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
Gen Prayut said more businesses could reopen on May 17, adding doing so would improve the economy as people would go to work and tourism would resume. However, he said safety measures will still be enforced.
“If workplaces reopen, there will be employment and salaries,” he said. “If factories reopen and employ people, rehabilitation will start.”
Gen Prayut said as the government relaxes control measures, the resumption of economic activities would be gradual. Otherwise, a second wave could occur.
“The government will do its best to take care of everyone, as much as it can, with existing laws and budgets. The money will be used efficiently,” he said. “Please have confidence and listen to the government.”
“Please be patient and helpful. The government is taking care of affected businesses and the people,” Gen Prayut added.
“We do not know how long the Covid-19 pandemic will last. The key is to make our country safe as soon as possible.”
In other news, the government has put on hold a proposal to remove China and South Korea from a list of “dangerous communicable disease zones”, pending the decision of a panel of health experts.
The proposal was made by Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul at a CCSA meeting on Thursday.
CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin allayed concerns that the proposed removal would lead to an influx of Chinese and South Koreans who might bring the disease with them and spark a new infection wave.
“Our measures remain the same. Inbound commercial flights are still banned,” Dr Taweesilp said. “Visitors must have fit-to-fly health certificates. If they visit now, they must be quarantined at a state facility for 14 days.”
“Tourists would not enjoy visiting while these measures are in place,” he added.
Mr Anutin yesterday said he proposed to remove China and South Korea from the list because the two countries have managed to control the virus situation at home.
He said the proposal was also made to boost diplomatic ties with China and South Korea, adding there would also be mutual support in terms of medical supplies distribution.
Mr Anutin said the CCSA had agreed to remove them from the list in principle, but the panel of health experts will still review the proposal.
“There are many layers of protection,” he said. “Please do not worry about the matter.”