On 30 April, which was the date foreseen for the end of the semi-lockdown, the state of the emergency decree has been extended to May 31(And was extended again for a second time, to the end of June) as well as the curfew from 11 pm. to 4 am. The soft opening date is chosen, Sunday, may 3, coincided with a long weekend, the 1st, and the 4th which is the anniversary of the coronation in 2019 of King Rama 10. Despite the number of safety regulations, for many, it has been a deliverance, the return to normal, meaning back to work, and salary for employees and business for the self-employed. The schools remained closed and will open on July 1st. Only a few businesses and activities have been allowed to reopen and several measures have been taken by the city and government authorities. They specified that the situation will be examined for 14 days to determine whether to proceed with the next phase of the easing lockdown- measures.
Large restaurants of more than 200 square meters have to check the temperature of employees and customers, the others have been asked to do their best. Seating areas must be 1m to 1.5m apart, otherwise, except when tables are at least 2m apart, a partition must be installed. No buffet, only à la carte, and no alcohol may be served and no live music. The distance must be respected if there is a queue at the cashier, all these rules also apply in supermarkets and retail trade. Street stalls and peddlers although some have nevertheless tried to continue their activities during the confinement, most of them by the lack of customers have thrown in the towel after a few days and those who sell at night are still forced due to the curfew to stay at home.
Shopping Malls, Chatuchak Market
Initially, the shopping malls in the city center were allowed to raise their curtains, but only supermarkets, pharmacies, essential retail stores, banks telecommunication, food court but only take-away food, and finally fully opened on the 17th of May, the day of the second phase of lockdown relaxation, as well all the retail stores (Movie theater, Bowling alleys, bars, theme parks, karaoke, arcades, and playgrounds remain closed for the moment). However, in shopping malls and chain stores for contact-tracing and then be contacted and advised to get tested if a case is detected, most customers are required to give their telephone number each time they enter or leave. A news channel reported that although more than 2.6 million people checked in at different stores, only about 1.8 million bothered to check out again.
The Chatuchak weekend market had to wait one week, where all standard measures, temperature control at all entrances, a disinfectant gel for all visitors have been implemented. Restaurants and stalls must apply the measures mentioned above and depending on the space only 5 to10 people at a time in the stalls.
Certainly, a corporation where the measures are quite restrictive, the staff must wear masks and face shields and the salon must be cleaned every 2 hours as well as the equipment. Clients are not allowed to wait in the shop and must make an appointment. I went to my local hairdresser to get my hair freshened up. Her shop is very local, with 2 chairs and only welcomes 5 to 10 clients a day, she didn’t really feel concerned by these measures. I was careful though and had brought a sanitizer to clean the chair with me, which made her a little uncomfortable. She was wearing a mask and washed her hands with a hydro-alcoholic gel, which of course is for customers too. She’s not the best hairdresser, but in this situation it suits me.
Sports Activities and Leisure
Sports enthusiasts will have to be patient before they can build up their muscles in the gym, except for a few small rooms that have been given the green light to reopen. However, they can warm up on the activities that do not require close contact with people – such as walking, running, badminton, tennis, and table tennis, cycling. Team sports are prohibited. Golfers have taken back their golf clubs but must be content to hit the balls as no competition, group activities are allowed during or after the game, and distance also applies on the course. Good news public parks are open for exercise and relaxation only, but gatherings are not allowed, I took the opportunity to “go green” at Benjakitti and Sirikit parks. Also, we can visit museums, public libraries, and art galleries, which have reopened their doors.
Health and Beauty
Clinics and dentists are open, but ladies must wait because the beauty clinics have remained closed. Only a few beauty clinics have been allowed to reopen, nail salons, those that perform skin and laser treatments, but not those of the face for the time being. Massage parlors and spas also remain closed until the next phase.
For Our Best Friends
Not forgetting our best friends, the grooming shops and pet clinics have reopened. Reservations must be made in advance and customers must be registered, a questionnaire must be submitted to determine if they are at risk and can only bring one animal at a time. The premises must be cleaned every two hours. Our best friends deserve this!
It’s Compulsory to Wear a Mask
In Thailand, long before the Covid-19 crisis, many people wore masks in Bangkok because of the very high level of pollution, they also used to put them on, often as soon as they are unwell, it is then among the measures taken by the authorities that it has become compulsory (most often it is the Westerners that we come across without it).
One measure that was controversial was the sale of alcohol, which was first extended until May 31 and finally abolished 2 days later, which made a lot of people happy according to a lot of comments on social media. And as it was the case on the day of the ban was lifted, there was a rush in the supermarkets. It can only be consumed at home. In Thailand, selling alcohol is allowed from 11 am to 2 pm and from 5 pm to 10 pm.
Flights and Airports
Air traffic remains minimal, only domestic flights where traffic has resumed to 18 provincial airports, but only 5 airports are fully operational, Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Hat Yai. Only 4 airlines serve them, Nok Air, Thai AirAsia, Thai Lion Air, and Thai Vietjet. The 14-day quarantine is applied in these provinces, as well as Koh Samui, but not in Bangkok. No incoming commercial flights before June 30. Yet strict guidelines include partitions at the check-in counter to separate the staff and passengers, taking the temperature of all passengers as well as disinfecting the baggage carousels. Buses between the terminal and the planes that can normally transport up to 60 passengers will only carry a maximum of 22 people. Two major destinations, Koh Samui (4 flights/day Bangkok Airway) and Phuket remain closed and no reopening date has been specified. Humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights, as well as cargo and repatriation flights for Thai expatriates and tourists returning from abroad, are exempted, they are quarantined for 14 days, the same applies to those returning by land borders.
Interprovincial buses were back on the road on May 18 by one of the biggest operators, that opened 7 routes in the northern region, and 9 in the north-eastern and eastern regions from Bangkok. As for the southern lines, Thailand Transport Company is preparing to put into service 3 lines from June 1st, including Bangkok – Koh Samui, Bangkok – Phuket, and Bangkok – Trang.
Seats in the waiting area of the terminal and inside the bus will be spaced at least 1 meter apart. Passengers will have to wear a mask during the entire journey. If the passenger’s temperature is above 36.5°C, they will be denied access. Temperature control of staff, ticket office, and platforms before and after work. The interiors and toilets will be systematically cleaned before and after each service. In addition, buses will be parked in the sun every day at a minimum of 1 to 2 hours a day.
Each passenger will be required to complete a form outlining his or her travel history, health issues, and specific departure and destination points in order to coordinate with provincial transportation organizations and local authorities to prepare for the arrival of passengers in the provinces.
Train Back on the Rails
The lockdown and shutdown of many provinces had seen the Thai national railway company on April 1 suspends the service express, rapid, sleeper and dining to all regions because of a lack of passengers.
On May 18, service resumed on 42 routes across the country. Safety measures have been put in place identical to those applied for buses. Use of only 50% of the seats in the cars, banning the sale of food and drinks. And to be on the safe side, the company has decided to leave the air-conditioned trains on the platforms for the time being, as closed spaces might increase the risk of contamination.
I wanted to be aware of these measures and having no professional obligation I walked around, preferring to wait a little longer before using the MRT and the BTS, buses and canal boat service, which seems to me, like the markets, social distancing very difficult to apply particularly at rush hour. Of course in my neighborhood “Khlong Toei village“, which it is true was quieter, but kept living its life without any real change during these weeks, with small grocery stores and food stalls in the small Sois early in the morning and late afternoon have carried on selling to the locals. Small restaurants that remained open and where you could buy takeaway meals, tables, and chairs occupy the space again. Le Mercado which closed during all this period gradually see it’s clients back. The charcoal maker who continued to serve his few clients still in business is back full time, some sewing shops have taken back their scissors and sewing machines, others have not survived. Our fighter cock breeder, his poultry which after a long silence has resumed their early crowing wake up, and the bells of the peddler’s fruit sellers are ringing again. The Khlong Toei market, although less crowded than usual, has remained open and from what I have seen in the last few days seems to be returning to its normal activity. All the markets, floating markets, and street markets have reopened, which in my opinion because of the narrow space and crowds are the places where the rules are the least applied.
The streets have (unfortunately) also recovered their motorist occupants, and construction sites have resumed work. The street stalls vendors and peddlers, although some still tried to carry on their activities, most of them by the lack of customers had thrown in the towel after a few days and those who sell at night because of the curfew have no choice but to stay home. Public transport, BTS and MRT did not stop to operate during this period, (hydro-alcoholic gel since the beginning of the crisis are at the entrance of each station) buses that most of the time ran empty. Taxis and tuk-tuk, because of the lack of customers many had preferred to stop crisscrossing the streets of Bangkok. However, you could use the motorcycle taxi service, not everyone is “lucky” to have family in the provinces and a lot of them had no choice but to stay. These social categories have just gone through difficult financial months and it’s going to be a while before the tourists, one of their main resources, come back.
I was surprised when the shrine was opened on May 1st. As I wrote in my previous post, I went there (under a leaden heat), to make a wish. There were only 5 or 6 worshippers. A dancer was kind enough to exchange a few words with me. She said to me that before she carries out more than 150 dances/day, but when the Chinese tourists stopped coming the number has fallen and was rarely above 100, and today from 70 to 80 dances. The devotees are only Thai and of course, she wants to believe that the shrine will see foreign tourists come back and get is previous life back. For my part, after my wish, I hope to return there soon.
Find Bangkok Again
Taking the MRT and BTS to get a better feel of how life takes its course, also, Chinatown and Chatuchak are the neighborhoods and places to visit. As well, I will go to the street restaurants where I like to have a meal and try new ones. When they reopen in the coming weeks, bars are also on the agenda. Bangkok is gradually getting back to its rhythm, but it appeared to me that the Thai people remain calm and quite vigilant, there is also those who take things lightly, the “Mai pen rai” attitude. As far as I’m concerned, I still see them smiling and friendly, but as I sometimes heard “it’s purely commercial”. But for many, as everywhere in the world, their main worry is economic.
Although many people think that everything will not be the same, there are, including me, who feel that as soon as life gets back to normal it will be business as usual, some believe it will be better and others that it will be worse. Life is slowly getting back on track, let us cross our fingers that a vaccine will soon be discovered to definitively get rid of this scourge for good. In recent weeks Thailand recorded 37 new cases and one death.