May 15, 2020 / 6:01 AM / 22 days ago

Thailand reopening more businesses as coronavirus eases

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand will begin allowing department stores, shopping malls and other businesses to reopen from Sunday as new coronavirus cases dwindle, the government said.

The skyline of Bangkok is seen during sunset amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, after the Thai government eased isolation measures, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 15, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Stores selling electronics, furniture and office supplies will be among the businesses allowed to resume operations, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the government’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration.

The global pandemic has forced many countries to impose strict lockdowns. In Thailand, large stores aside from grocery shops and pharmacies have been closed since late March when daily cases surged above 100.

“I expect our numbers to remain good so that we can further relax restrictions in the next phases to return to normalcy,” Taweesin said.

While easing more restrictions was necessary for domestic econonomic activity to resume, he said the government remained wary about a potential second wave of cases.

“Everyone has to cooperate,” he added.

Thailand reported seven new coronavirus cases on Friday, all of which were imported from overseas, while the number of deaths remained unchanged at 56.

Other businesses allowed to resume operations on Sunday include nail salons, cosmetics and clothing stores, hotel meeting rooms and convention centres. Libraries, galleries and museums are also set to reopen, Taweesin said.

A night-time curfew will also be shortened by one hour, to 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. previously.

Spas, massage centres and most gyms will remain closed for now, although yoga studios and swimming pools can reopen as long as they practice social distancing.

Thailand first relaxed some restrictions on May 3, allowing six types of businesses to reopen, including outdoor markets, barber shops and pet groomers..

Taweesin urged Thais to wear masks and practice social distancing to prevent a resurgence of the virus that first emerged in China and has killed over 300,000 people globally.

Thailand has confirmed a total of 3,025 cases since the coronavirus outbreak started in January and on Wednesday reported zero new daily cases for the first time in two months.

Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Angus MacSwan

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