Thailand eyes lifting of lockdown by July 1

As Thailand enters the third phase of its lockdown on June 1, moderate-risk businesses including boxing stadia, massage parlours, spas and convention venues have been allowed to reopened, while the country observes a shortened curfew from 23.00 to 03.00.

Inter-provincial travel will also be permitted, although not yet encouraged, and provincial-level restrictions may be enforced.

Tourism attractions, such as the Ayutthaya historical park, have reopened, as Thailand enters the third phase of its lockdown

On May 26, Thailand’s emergency state was extended by another month until end-June, but the government is also in the midst of charting a possible course to completely end the lockdown by July 1, should there be no further outbreaks. That would entail the removal of the emergency state and curfew, stimulation of domestic travel and re-instigation of international travel, albeit with restrictions.

The National Security Council chief general Somsak Rungsita said that “the government has set July 1 for the lifting of all business and activity lockdowns” imposed to curb the Covid-19 spread, reported The Bangkok Post.

Prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has also announced plans for a cautious reopening to international tourists.

“If the country reopens to foreign travellers too quickly and they bring the virus with them, Thailand will have to go back into lockdown, which will be catastrophic,” the prime minister was quoted as saying by the report.

International travel has already been lifted in stages to specific groups of foreigners who must cover the costs of their own 14-day quarantines and medical certifications. The first group has been announced as those holding Thai work permits. There is no official word on when the quarantine requirements will be lifted, or when foreign tourists will be allowed back into the country.

The government is, however, turning its focus to domestic travel. With the launch of the Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration (SHA) certification, the Tourism and Sports Ministry intends to lift the domestic lockdown.

On May 26, the price of Thai hotel stocks including that of The Erawan Group, Minor International and Central Plaza Hotel PCL briefly surged more than 11 per cent each, following the National Economic and Social Development Board’s announcement that it would likely issue coupons in July to help reduce accommodation costs by 40 to 50 per cent. The move is hoped to stimulate domestic tourism, under a proposed 400 billion baht (US$12.6 billion) loan framework authorised by Royal Decree to the Ministry of Finance.

Post-lockdown, the three most popular activities among Thais have been having haircuts, travelling and eating out, according to global market research firm Ipsos. “The survey suggests the travel industry should bounce back after the lockdown due to demand among those with an income of more than 50,000 baht a month,” Aitsanart Wuthithanakul, a senior client officer at Ipsos, told the Bangkok Post.

Many of Thailand’s travel attractions are slowly reopening. Over the past week, thousands of domestic tourists visited the Ayutthaya historical park, according to official data. Elsewhere, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace will reopen to the public from June 4, and Damnoen Saduak Floating Market in Ratchaburi, from May 30.

Bangsaen beach in Chonburi will possibly reopen on June 1, pending a decision from the Chonburi Communicable Disease Control Committee. Phuket beaches remain closed indefinitely, but the open beaches in Hua Hin and Rayong are drawing scores of Thai and expat travellers indulging in self-drive holidays and social-distancing-friendly water sports like kitesurfing.

Over the past month, restaurants, shopping malls, businesses and venues in “white” and “green” low-risk categories throughout Thailand have reopened. Individuals use the Thai Chana app to check in and out of malls and shops to help with contact tracing.

Pubs, bars and night entertainment venues fall into the “red” or high-risk category of businesses that will be the last to reopen.

This article has been updated. An earlier version of this story incorrectly misstated the curfew time is from 21.00 to 03.00.

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