Expert Proposes Re-Opening Businesses in Pandemic by ‘Zoning’

A man visits a pawn shop in Bangkok on April 16, 2020.

BANGKOK — A senior economist on Wednesday said businesses should be allowed to return to normalcy at a different pace amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal was made by Thai Chamber of Commerce Kalin Sarasin in a meeting of representatives from public and private sectors through a video conference. Kalin said businesses should be classified into three zones – green, yellow, and red – depending on the risks involved.

“Green” districts are those with no new infection. “Yellow” is for areas with low infection levels, while the “Red” zone will be reserved for provinces and cities where a high rate of infections is reported.

Businesses in Green areas will be allowed to operate normally, and those in Yellow areas will have to implement strict safety measures. No business can reopen in the Red zones.

“If it gets out of control, those businesses should be shut down again,” Kalin said.

He said the proposal will be formally submitted to the government for consideration on Monday.

Many businesses, which have been shut down per government orders for weeks now, are anxious to reopen amid the speculation that the pandemic will not go away in the near future. Kalin said earlier this week that up to 7 million people already lost their jobs due to the virus.

But government spokesman Taweesin Visanuyothin said on Thursday cast doubt on the possibility of a quick return to normalcy.

Speaking at a news conference today, he said people should not assume that the state of emergency and curfew would be lifted at the end of April. Infections are still on a sharp increase in neighboring countries and the government will have to assess the situation again towards the end of the month, he said.

“You want to reopen shopping? Will there be space for social distancing? Can restaurants keep tables further apart?” said Taweesin, adding that Thailand should watch what’s happening in Japan where infections are on the rise again.

Taweesin is doubtful that the world will be out of danger by the end of this month.

“Be a little patient and we will overcome it together,” Taweesin said.