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Hair cuts and dining in as Thai malls reopen after virus cases ease

Thailand allowed shopping malls in the capital Bangkok to reopen on Wednesday and restaurants to operate at half capacity, after nearly three months of tough restrictions aimed at containing the country’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

The move comes after infections numbers started falling in the middle of last month and with the government under pressure to ease lockdown measures due to the impact on the economy.

“Thai citizens like me…will come back to normal life,” said Wanvipa Luepromchian, who was getting her hair cut in a salon in the Siam Paragon mall in Bangkok.

The government in July started imposing strict measures including closing malls and prohibiting restaurant dining as the number of new infections surged due to the Delta variant.

At its peak, authorities reported over 23,000 new cases in a single day in mid-August.

On Wednesday, the health ministry reported 14,802 new cases and 252 additional deaths. Thailand has overall reported 1.2 million cases and 11,841 fatalities.

“If you (the government) lockdown everything that’s so dangerous for the economy in Thailand,” Wanvipa said.

Last week, the government also allowed some domestic flights to resume.

Restaurants dining can also restart, but at half the capacity to allow for social distancing.

“Customers need to get temperatures checked before entering and keep social distancing with only two people on one table, but if they are family, they can be seated together,” said restaurant manager Nichapha Jiwvaganont.

While a night time curfew remains in place in Bangkok, the partial reopening will be supportive for Thailand’s struggling economy.

A joint business group on Wednesday raised its 2021 economic forecast from between a 0.5 percent contraction to 1 percent growth from a contraction of 1.5 percent to 0 percent growth as curbs were relaxed.

  • Reporting by Jiraporn Kuhakan and Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Ed Davies, of Reuters.

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