Pattaya, Chonburi, Thailand-
After two weeks of closure to dine-in customers, restaurants in Chonburi are breathing a small sigh of relief this morning as they are able to open their doors and welcome guests once more after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in Chonburi.
The lifting of restrictions and downgrading of Chonburi from a “dark red” province to a “red” province, however, is only the first step on what will likely be a long road to recovery for hard-hit Pattaya, suffering from its third “shutdown” in a year that has devastated the tourism and hospitality industry in tourist-reliant Pattaya. In 2019, the city was the 19th most visited city in the world and welcomed almost ten million foreign tourists, as well as 7 million domestic.
Due to Covid-19 measures, restrictions, and border closures those days are long in the past although city leaders are optimistic that once the are is vaccinated to at least 70% of the population Pattaya will be able to recover and welcome vaccinated foreign tourists once again, recovering an economy that is reliant on tourism for about 80% of their GDP.
Pattaya City Mayor Sonthaya Khunplume has repeatedly encouraged local residents to get vaccinated when it becomes available as the city begins mass vaccinations later this week. Foreign residents will be able to get vaccinated as well, although all the details are not yet clear.
For now, restaurant owners are able to welcome customers back into their establishments in Chonburi, without capacity limits, although with Covid-19 precautions and measures like temperature checks, social distancing, hygiene-related rules, and other measures. “Dark Red” areas, which are now only Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, and Pathum Thani, are also allowing dine-in after heavy pressure from the Thai Restaurant Association but with only 25% capacity, despite continued Covid-19 cases in those areas.
Restaurants are able to serve dine-in until 11:00 P.M. in Chonburi and all “Red” zones, and 9:00 P.M. in “Dark Red” zones. Alcohol sales, however, are forbidden in restaurants nationwide to discourage people from using restaurants as bars. Bars, entertainment venues, and similar establishments also remain closed nationwide. Chonburi has also made the provincial decision to leave many things closed, including pools and beaches (technically open for exercise, but in reality, especially on Pattaya Beach, basically closed and can only walk near the beach) for the time being as public health officials monitor the situation.
Chonburi, on the other hand, has seen a drop in cases, almost all driven by close contacts at home, with restaurant owners and provincial health officials alike hoping the reopening doesn’t see a spike in cases.
For now, restaurant owners can breathe a small sigh of relief, although many owners are still not opening until alcohol sales are allowed or domestic tourism returns and Pattaya’s thousands of entertainment venues can open. With the popular entertainment districts shut, many restaurant owners have told The Pattaya News they struggle to make a profit and it saves them money to remain closed until the situation improves overall in the province and city. Additionally, many local residents are staying home and avoiding going out because of fear of Covid-19, reducing customers further according to some restaurant owners. There is no sign of when other measures will be relaxed and city leaders are only stating they are taking it one day at a time and do not want to commit to any timelines on when more measures, like cinemas, bars, gyms, etc. can open.