[Update-1] Nonthaburi governor retracts order to reopen businesses following criticism

Only mobile phone and computer services in department stores will reopen after Nonthaburi governor Sujin Chaichumsak faces criticism for his announcement to reopen some businesses.

The country’s confirmed coronavirus cases has dropped down from an average of around 100 per day before the State of Emergency was declared on March 26 to around 50 per day. 

With a report of 28 new cases on Monday and 34 new cases on Tuesday, the new norm is approaching and a number of provinces are talking about reopening some businesses. However, the possibility of a resurgence still looms right around the corner.

Nonthaburi Governor Sujin Chaichumsak announced on Monday that the province is easing up on its shutdown orders.

Originally, Sujin planned to reopen a handful of businesses, including barber shops, beauty salons, couriers and lottery stalls, but following criticism, he has retracted to only opening mobile phone and computer services in department stores.

The staff and customers will be required to wear face masks if they are outdoors and face shields if they are indoors. Other businesses and bars will remain closed until April 30.

Other conditions include a mandatory screen station for customers entering the stores and a cleaning station with hand sanitizers on offer. The stores should not be crowded and customers should stay at least one meter away from each other. Additionally, they must make an appointment in advance, if applicable. 

The stores must also have a special working station or a channel set up specifically for customers aged 60 and above. The stores are required to be kept clean at all times.

If any of the shops fail to comply with these conditions, they will be ordered to shut down again on a case-by-case basis.

The move by Nonthaburi is in accordance with the calls made from five private institutions that met with the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) on Monday. They said if the outbreak lasts until July, there will be 10 million people facing unemployment and they want some businesses to reopen so that they are able to keep on hiring.

One of the representatives, Kalin Sarasin, chairman of Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC), also went as far as to suggest the reopening of department stores but said that such a move should be consulted with doctors and the government’s coronavirus response center first.

Although, government spokesman Dr Thaweesin Visanuyothin urged people to continue to stay at home on Tuesday even though the number of confirmed cases is dropping. He said that a resurgence could still happen and a new spike would not show up until a week later if people begin to leave their houses.

Other countries, including the heavily-affected Spain and Italy, are reopening businesses as well. Spain is already allowing workers in their manufacturing and construction sectors to return to work, but they must stick to strict safety guidelines. Italy will also reopen a small range of businesses, such as bookshops, stationers and children’s clothes shops, on Tuesday.

US President Donald Trump is pushing to reopen businesses as soon as possible, while many schools in Japan have already resumed classes the previous Monday. China has reopened almost everything from the manufacturing sector to tourism.

The World Health Organization (WHO), however, has warned that reopening too fast could spark a “deadly resurgence” of the coronavirus outbreak within these countries. 

“I know that some countries are already planning the transition out of stay-at-home restrictions. WHO wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone,” head of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference in Geneva on April 10.

“At the same time, lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence. The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly.”

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