FILE PHOTO: A man walks past the almost deserted Grand Palace which usually is crowded with tourists, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Bangkok, Thailand, March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Thailand to further ease COVID-19 restrictions, shorten curfew hours

BANGKOK: Thailand will next week shorten curfew hours and ease restrictions on more businesses, the government said on Friday (May 29), in response to its low numbers of locally transmitted cases of the coronavirus.

Starting from Jun 1, cinemas and theatres can reopen, but with no more than 200 people at a time and with strict social distancing measures, said Somsak Roongsita, secretary-general of the National Security Council.

A curfew will be shortened by one hour to last from 11pm to 3am and shopping malls, which reopened earlier this month, will also be allowed to extend their operating hours, he added.

"The reopening will help stimulate the economy and ease some financial burdens," Somsak said.

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Zoos, beauty clinics, spas and traditional Thai massages will be allowed to operate, with social distancing in place, as will soccer fields and volleyball and basketball courts, but only for training purposes and with limits on spectators.

Fitness clubs can also reopen but with limited users at each time.

Thailand's planning agency on Thursday said the impacts of the coronavirus could cause the loss of up to 2 million jobs this year, particularly in the tourist industry. It predicts the economy will shrink 5 to 6 per cent this year.

Thailand confirmed 11 new coronavirus cases on Friday, and no new deaths. All those cases were arrivals from Kuwait and were in state quarantine.

All but one of the cases reported this week were detected in quarantine.

The government has previously said it planned to reopen all businesses within June, although passenger flights remain suspended.

The Southeast Asian country has seen a slowdown in locally transmitted cases, and more recent cases have been found among those in state quarantine after returning from abroad.

The coronavirus has infected 3,076 in Thailand since January and killed 57.

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