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Thais Flock to Reopened Malls, but Hassles May Not Be Worth It

Bangkok Malls Reopen Corwds Bangkok Herald
Thailand's shopping malls reopened May 17, but with many restrictions on a good time.

Thais returned to their beloved shopping malls Sunday hoping to return to life before the two-month coronavirus lockdown, but finding instead so many obstacles and prohibitions, many wondered if shopping was worth it.

In Bangkok, large malls like Central World saw hundreds of people line up well before doors even opened. Central Group enacted strict measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, requiring patrons to register and check-in via the government’s new Thai Chana (Thais Win) website, pass a screening checkpoint and have their shoes disinfected.

Despite already checking in, people were forced to go through the entire routine to any any of the shops inside. Some stores turned people away to keep crowding down, limiting entry to 25 people.

Critics have assailed the government’s rushed attempt at contact tracing, arguing authorities have not properly disclosed what information is being kept and what protections are in place to prevent snooping by the former military generals.

Those refusing to check-in online had to complete manual registers of names and telephone numbers or email addresses. Government identification cards were required for Thais and passports for foreigners going the manual route or without a phone.

Nattakit Tangpoonsinthana, executive vice president of Marketing for mall operator Central Pattana Plc. said the measures were prepared to ensure customer safety, touting such “innovations” as a “touchless” sensor elevator at Central Festival Eastville; escalators equipped with an ultraviolet lamp to disinfect the stairs at all times and similar lights in cupboards to disinfect shopping bags. Malls also now employ disinfecting robots using ultraviolet light, and Ultraviolet light radiators to sanitize changing rooms.

Despite already checking in, people were forced to go through the entire routine to any any of the shops inside. Some stores turned people away to keep crowding down, limiting entry to 25 people.

Central Group has also ensured that the malls’ air conditioning system is cleansed regularly even when the malls are closed. Customers can be sure that the air inside is clean.

Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang toured malls Saturday to check that proper social distancing measures were being put in place and warned people against all getting out of the house at the same time, a plea that was ignored as hundreds of people stood within reach of each other outside Central World Sunday night after it closed at 8 p.m.

City Hall requires malls to limit customers to one for every five square meters of retail space, provide hand sanitizers throughout the mall, require everyone to wear a mask, place restaurant tables 1-1.5 meters apart, and install screens between tables – and even people at the same table. Restuarants also cannot sell alcohol.

City Hall said it would station municipal officers at each of the city’s 200 malls to be sure its dictates were enforced.

For some, all the hoops needed jumped through ruined the experience. “It’s just too much hassle said a 25-year-old shopper who came with her 58-year-old mother. “It’s good to leave the house, but you have to put up with a lot.”