The private sector is calling on the government to roll out relief measures to lessen the impact of the latest COVID-19 control measures which come into effect today, including a ban on dining-in at restaurants across high-risk areas.
Published on the Royal Gazette’s website late on Saturday night, the restrictions apply to Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Pathum Thani, Narathiwat, Songkhla, Pattani, and Yala – provinces which have been classified by the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) as “maximum and strict control zones”, also known as “dark red” zones.
The restrictions, according to the announcement, will be in effect for 30 days.
Under the new curbs, all 575 construction worker camps across Greater Bangkok have been sealed off while restaurant dining in Bangkok and its five surrounding provinces are banned to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Deputy spokesman for the Royal Thai Armed Forces, Maj Gen Thiraphong Patthamasing, said more than 10,000 soldiers and police will be deployed to ensure law and order at the camps.
The ban on dining-in has prompted protests from restaurant owners, with the president of the Thai Restaurants Association, Thaniwan Kulmongkol, likening it to being struck by lightning multiple times, without any help from anyone.
“Dine-in services normally account for 90% of restaurants’ income,” she said.
Ms Kulmongkol called on the government to help affected restaurants by buying 200,000 meal boxes per day from them at a cost of 50 baht per box – which comes to about 10 million baht a day – until the ban on dining-in is lifted.
“These meal boxes will be delivered to construction workers who are locked down in their camps,” Ms Kulmongkol said.
Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC), said he understood the government needed to roll out these stringent COVID-19 measures, saying the TCC is equally concerned about public health and the economic situation.
If these stringent measures work, Thailand should be able to regain international confidence in time for its plan to reopen the country, he said.
However, he warned that these measures should not be maintained for too long as they are hurting certain businesses, particularly those in the restaurant, tourism and service sectors.
“It’s sad but true, many more people in these businesses will lose their jobs as a result of these COVID-19 control measures,” he said, adding the government should also review its economic stimulus and COVID-19 relief programmes to keep up with the changing outbreak situation.
According to a projection by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), the ban on dine-in services alone will cost between 30-60 billion baht in losses per month, or about 0.1% to 0.3% of gross domestic product (GDP).
Lisa Ngamtrakulpanich, president of the Thai Contractors Association (TCA), meanwhile, urged the government to consider compensating contractors which are affected by its new COVID-19 control measures.
“Most, if not, all contractors will be fined for construction delays,” she said.
Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri on Sunday urged the media not to report the restrictions as lockdowns. “They simply are stricter control measures targeting businesses that are found to be sources of infections,” he said.