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Curfew to End, Booze to Flow Under Thailand’s 4th Phase Reopening Plan

A woman displays her phone to doorman, to conform using a mobile application to help contact-tracing at the entrance to the upmarket shopping mall Siam Paragon in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, May 17, 2020. Thai authorities allowed department stores, shopping malls and other businesses to reopen from Sunday, selectively easing restrictions meant to combat the coronavirus. (AP Photo/ Gemunu Amarasinghe)
A woman displays her phone to doorman, to conform using a mobile application to help contact-tracing at the entrance to the upmarket shopping mall Siam Paragon in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, May 17, 2020. Thai authorities allowed department stores, shopping malls and other businesses to reopen from Sunday, selectively easing restrictions meant to combat the coronavirus. (AP Photo/ Gemunu Amarasinghe)

The curfew will be lifted and restaurants can sell booze again, but Thailand’s bars and naughty soapy massages will remain closed under the latest economic reopening plan being considered by the government.

Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for the government’s coronavirus taskforce, said Wednesday that the draft plan will be discussed at the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration meeting on Friday. If approved, it would go into effect June 15.

In March, Thailand outlined a four-phase reopening plan, one that still is listed on various Thai embassy websites. But the ultra-cautious former generals have split Phase 4 in half, now pushing what it considers the highest-risk businesses to a Phase 5 that would begin July 1.

Bars, soapy massage parlors, pubs and karaoke clubs – plus the reopening of international air travel – will have to wait until next month.

Another high point would be the termination of the nighttime curfew, although called it only a test run. If people go crazy partying in big groups until the wee hours and cases reappear, so will the curfew.

Deputy army chief Gen. Natapol Nakpanich, a member of the disease-control committee, said they would continue to impose the executive decree on public administration in emergency situations despite the curfew’s end.

However, the draft plan throws restaurant operators a much-needed lifeline with the ban on alcohol sales lifted, a prohibition nearly everyone except those making the decisions considered ridiculous. Currently, people can purchase alcohol at a 7-Eleven across the street from a diner or have it delivered home, but can’t have it with a meal at a restaurant.

Many Thai restaurants chose not to reopen when they were allowed to a month ago if they were unable to sling booze.

Equally as hollow is the continuing ban on bars and pubs. Most of the “restaurants” that will reopen on Monday are restaurants in license only. These include the many sports pubs which have a restaurant license but earn two-thirds or more of their revenue from alcohol sales.

With sports resuming (without spectators) from Australia to Germany to England, sports pubs will be back in full swing with beer flowing and footie on the television. It remains to be seen how aggressive corrupt Thai police will be in enforcing the government’s social-distancing requirements or how much they will charge to look the other way.

Police – their “tea money” severely curtailed during the tourism and hospitality industries’ shutdown – have been turning to other schemes to exact hefty fines, such as the much-ballyhooed crackdown on social media posts that infringe upon the vague yet draconian alcohol-control law.

In fact, hidden among the CCSA’s announcement Wednesday, was that if restaurants do reopen, they will be prohibited from promoting the alcohol they sell.

Most of the “restaurants” that will reopen on Monday are restaurants in license only. These include the many sports pubs which have a restaurant license but earn two-thirds or more of their revenue from alcohol sales.

That dovetails with reports that regulators were preparing even stricter prohibitions on booze adverting, despite calls from hospitality executiges to do just the opposite in the light of the country’s massive economic downturn, which may see gross domestic product fall 7 percent or more this year.

Outside of tourism, other enterprises that look to get the green light Monday are international schools, tuition and training centers, larger film crews up to 150 people, large conferences and trade fairs, sporting events, and concerts with capacity limited to one person per 4-5 square meters of floor space.

Other venues already open will see some of their restrictions, including spas, playgrounds, swimming pools, public parks, martial arts schools.

The last restrictions, other than social distancing, also will be removed from interprovincial travel.

The plans for reopening the airports to international travel, however, remains murky.

Somsak Roongsita, secretary-general of the National Security Council, said the airport closures would continue until the end of this month and officials would consider subsequent measures.

The current consensus is that Thailand will limit international tourism to “travel bubbles” with other countries which have similiarly controlled their coronavirus epidemics.