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Schools in 28 Provinces to Close as Thailand’s Business Sector Weighs in on Shutdown

Morning Briefing: Restaurant group calls dine-in ban pointless; malls kowtow; Bangkok sets checkpoints leading out of town

Thailand Schools social distancing desk partitions classrooms

Public and private schools in 28 “red zone” provinces will closed until the end of the month under an order from Thailand’s Education Ministry as businesses voiced their support or opposition to an avalanche of the coronavirus suppression measures announced by the government.

Education Minister Natthaphon Teepasuwan on Saturday signed the order shuttering all schools under ministry jurisdiction from Jan. 4-31.

Classes will be taught online, although some schools will require some teachers to go in. Unlike earlier orders by Bangkok and other provinces, the ministry’s order also covers private and international schools. Informal educational outfits, such as language and Muay Thai boxing schools, also are affected.

The order covers Chonburi, Bangkok, Tak, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Ayutthaya, Saraburi, Lopburi, Singburi, Ang Thong, Nakhon Nayok, Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Ratchaburi, Suphanburi. Prachuap Khiri Khan, Phetchaburi, Samut Songkhram, Samut Sakhon, Chachoengsao, Prachinburi, Sa Kaeo, Samut Prakan, Chanthaburi, Chonburi, Trat, Rayong, Chumphon and Ranong.

Natthaphon was just the latest national and local politician to bombard Thailand with shutdown orders that have come fast and furious over the New Year’s holidays at a pace that has left business owners flailing to keep up. The rollout has been piecemeal and incremental, angering many who have lamented sands that have shifted under them, sometimes by the hour.

The Association of Thai Restaurants – whose members went from normal operations to limited hours to being banned from selling alcohol to the likely relegated to takeout orders only over the span of three days – finally said “enough” on Saturday, telling the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration that banning dine-in services was stupid and economically catastrophic.

Association President Thaneewan Kulmonkol said he would write an open letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha urging him to reconsider the ban likely to go into effect Monday, claiming it would inflict 100 billion baht in damage on the restaurant sector and related businesses, such as agriculture.

The association said that restaurant workers laid off during the last shutdown only recently have returned to work and stabilized their lives only to be thrown out of work again by a new suspension in in-house dining.

The group noted that fresh food and vegetable suppliers also would be hard hit, which will be reflected in reduced tax revenue.

The association says that the staff at most large and medium-sized restaurants have been trained in safety measures for customers and additional safety measures have been imposed. Thus, there is no significant benefit to closing dining from a health perspective, but a tremendous downside on the economic side.

The Thai Retailers and Shopping Center Association, on the other hand, seems to be falling into lockstep with the government, agreeing to close all member malls nationwide at 9 p.m. to limit coronavirus the already limited coronavirus risk while shopping for an hour or two a day.

The group said Saturday its hours limit would take effect Monday and does not affect independent markets or shopping centers.

As most malls close at 10 or 11 p.m. and have few customers in large open spaces, it’s dubious what actual health benefit the cutback would have, but a voluntary rollback of hours may pre-empt more-drastic government dictates.

Bangkok Sets Highway Checkpoints Covid Coronavirus Thailand

Elsewhere, Bangkok City Hall ordered districts to set up checkpoints on routes leading out of the capital to try to quash the interprovincial spread of the the coronavirus.

BMA Permanent Secretary Silapasuay Raweesangsoon on Saturday said checkpoints would be set up at:

  1. In front of Big C, Chaeng Wattana Road, Laksi district
  2. Warehouse Gate 7, Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, Don Muang district
  3. Don Muang Tollway entrance, Don Muang district
  4. Intersection under Maha Nakhon Expressway, Suwintawong Road, Nong Jok district
  5. Near BTS Bearing station, Sukhumvit Road, Bangna district
  6. In front of Interlink Tower (formerly Nation Tower), Bangna-Trad Road, Bangna district
  7. Bangchak entrance of Burapha Withi Expressway, Phra Khanong district
  8. In front of Toyota service centre, Ratchaphreuk Road, Taling Chan district
  9. Phutthamonthon Sai 3 intersection, Borommaratchachonnani Road, Thawi Watthana district