BANGKOK — Gyms, beaches, churches, and other “mid-risk” venues are crowded with visitors a week into the “Phase 3” of government easing coronavirus lockdown measures.
As a sign of declining worries over the virus, lives return to normal in many parts of Thailand, albeit with some restrictions, and the government said it would no longer hold pandemic update briefings on weekends. The latest briefing on Monday said seven more people tested positive for the virus, all of them returnees from overseas.
“You can be a bit more relieved, but not negligent,” crisis response center spokesman Taweesin Visanuyothin said.
At Switch On Gym on Wednesday in Korat, people jogged on treadmills and lifted weights, all the while separated by plastic sheets.
Manager Puttawut Kasetbuatong said that he had to make sure that every single machine had a plastic barrier, while machines and contact surfaces are cleaned every 30 minutes. Only 50 people are allowed in his gym at a time.
Catholics in Buriram rejoiced – literally – when the first mass since lockdown in the province was allowed Sunday at the Wat Mae Phra Haeng Sai Prakum Suksit church.
“Since the coronavirus outbreak, there has been no mass and I felt like something was missing. But it wasn’t a problem since you can pray anywhere,” Anong Kraisri, 75 said. “Being able to come to church, however, makes me happy. Catholic religious activities are back.”
Bang Saen Beach in Chonburi was so crowded over the past week that on Sunday a group of both Thais and tourists picked up the trash left by visitors.
“I was looking forward to coming to the beach here, when we arrived I saw trash floating with the waves. When the tide went out, the trash was stuck to the beach, so my family and I helped pick up some trash,” Pawit Nitprakit, 47, who drove there from his Pathum Thani home, said on Sunday.
But officials said they remain vigilant over the possibility of a “second wave” of coronavirus outbreak.
Worried by the crowds of tourists, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed officials to maintain social distancing measures over beach visits, such as setting limits on visitor numbers, and separate areas for beachside restaurants and picnics.
The government also said it inspected 701,043 venues from May to June, and found only 1 percent of the establishments, or about 6,800, that did not apply procedures of wearing masks or social distancing.
Spokesman Taweesin said officials are determining the rules that will be used for the “Phase 4” reopening of schools, pubs, bars, and other “high-risk” areas.
“We are meeting more often to get ready to enter Phase 4 if there are no further hiccups,” Taweesin said. “If we allow these services to open, we must have a handbook ready so we can be confident in Phase 4.”