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Covid-19 Tests Now Required to Enter All Chonburi Restaurants

Venues of all sizes must test workers daily; Those unwilling/unable must close

Will the brothels of Pattaya's Soi 6 that reopened his past week as
Will the brothels of Pattaya's Soi 6 that reopened his past week as "restaurants" offer STD checks with the Covid-19 tests? (Photo: Bangkok Herald)

In a late-night attack on his province’s tourism and F&B industries, Chonburi’s governor issued an order mandating that customers of restaurants of all sizes produce a negative coronavirus test result before entering.

The laughably unenforceable dictate from Gov. Pakarathorn Thienchai late Jan. 1 replaced a similarly absurd proclamation issued in the wee hours of the same day that had spared smaller restaurants from the onerous unfunded mandate.

Both orders were issued out of panic over the coronavirus omicron variant, which has now made its way to Chonburi as the highly transmissible mutation sweeps across Thailand where it will inevitably become the dominant strain in the country.

The original order had applied only from Dec. 31-Jan. 2 and required all staff, including entertainment performers, at restaurants – and the thousands of bars masquerading as restaurants – to be tested daily with rapid antigen kits.

Customers, however, would only have to produce proof of a negative coronavirus test from within the past 72 hours or take a test on-site before entering if the venue regularly served more than 100 people or “looked busy or congested” even without actually serving 100 people.

The new order, however, does away with the time limit – it’s now in force until further notice – and requires all customers, regardless the size of the venue or the customer’s vaccination status, to either take a test on-site or provide proof of a recent negative test.

Restaurant owners unable or unwilling to foot the testing bill or make customers wait 15 minutes outside for test results are given no other choice than to simply close down.

Pattaya City Hall blunted the cost-hit for some venues, however, by setting up free screening stations on Walking Street, Soi LK Metro, the Tree Town Market on Soi Buakhao and on Soi 6.

The order immediately drew the wrath of both operators and customers who pointed out impracticality of the mandate as well as the lack of required specificity.

“All food and beverage business? In malls? Food markets? Food carts? Smoothie stands? Coffee shops? This is really clear as mud,” one commenter wrote on Facebook when the order was posted online. “Equivalent (to) a lockdown because who can afford to test everyday just to work and every 72 hours to dine or drink outside of their home?”

With his extreme measure, Pakarathorn has stuck a shiv in the gut of every Chonburi restaurant owner, employee and entertainer. The province fought two months for the right for its venues to sell alcohol, which finally got them off the revenue mat.

Now, with one kneejerk kick of the pen, the governor has put up a barrier to entry few customers will be willing to bear. Pakarathorn only needs to look at the thousands of empty seats at this weekend’s Pattaya Countdown – where only 8% of 2,500 seats were filled on the first two nights – to learn that people won’t put up with needless and pointless regulation.

Chonburi, at this point, has only a couple dozen documented omicron cases. And while daily case numbers have soared to more than 400 over the past week, the increase was expected and easily handled by the province’s hospitals.

And, as pointed out early in last year’s outbreak, restaurants are an extremely minor contributor to the coronavirus wave. Tourism officials noted last year that only 3% of cases then were tied to restaurants. But now, as then, the food and beverage industry will take 100% of the hit.