Thailand Mulls Easing More Virus Lockdown Measures

Pupils wear face masks at a kindergarten in Trang province on Aug. 6, 2020.

BANGKOK (Xinhua) — As Thailand inches towards an 80 days free from community transmission of COVID-19, the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Friday said its committee will discuss further easing of lockdown restrictions.

The easing of restrictions would include full resumption of school services, full service on passenger buses, sports competitions with spectators, the return of inflight food served in the plane, and the closing time of entertainment places at 2 a.m.

“We have passed more than two months without a single trace of local COVID-19 transmission,” said CCSA spokesman Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin.

“That means full resumption of services and businesses can resume in Thailand,” said the spokesman, “Out of precaution, please wear your face masks and maintain social distancing at outdoor venues.”

The state of emergency will terminate at the end of August.

However, the government reaffirmed that inbound flights to general tourists will remain banned.

“We cannot allow any risks to second wave of infections coming from tourists worldwide,” Taweesin said, referring to United States and South America peaking at their number of COVID-19 infections.

“Tourism is one of Thailand’s main source of income, however ensuring that the Thai people stay healthy and free of infections, is the government’s top priority,” said Taweesin.

Tough job ahead for the Cabinet

A Thai commercial bank’s research unit on Friday said in a press briefing that Thailand’s newly appointed economic ministers will find it an uphill battle to rescue and reboot the Thai economy as the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic persists.

Given the dwindling financial resources, rising unemployment and the global threat of a second-wave contagion, it will be difficult in the short term, warned Charl Kengchon, executive chairman at the Kasikorn Research Centre.

“Therefore the immediate challenge is to support workers and businesses as relief measures including cash handouts come to an end,” he said.

The research centre said the Thai economy is showing signs of improvement, but recovery remains a distant prospect as only some sectors and workers have resumed operations.

“We have not yet reopened for tourism, so businesses and workers in tourism-related sectors are still suffering the most,” he said.

Meanwhile countries including the United States, Australia, Japan, Philippines and Vietnam have experienced a surge of new infections, which has delayed the recovery for Thai exports, the centre said.

He also said that external factors are also causing uncertainty, including whether the United States Federal Reserve will cut its policy rates again or inject more liquidity into the market, which will weaken the dollar and lead to the appreciation of the Thai baht.

“A strong baht will be a huge impediment to Thai exporters, who are paid in dollars and must then exchange them for baht,” he explained.

Also, the global exchange rate market is so big that the central bank might be not be able to prevent the baht from rising, Charl said.

“Regarding tourism, the challenge is how to reopen the sector,” Charl said, “Reopening to foreign tourists would risk importing more COVID-19 cases.”

The centre warned that if the Thai economy does not improve significantly, 4.5 million service sector workers and 1 million in manufacturing may lose their jobs.