New severe Covid-19 restrictions go into effect as Chon Buri province and Pattaya inside it were classified as dark red zones, causing already hard-hit restaurants to suffer and some to close completely. Being pushed to take-away only after their customer base is already severely reduced by international borders being all but closed to tourism for over a year has left once-thriving, busy eating establishments scrambling for scraps of the few remaining customers.
This is the third time since the pandemic began that restaurants have been forced to serve only takeaway orders, a double whammy on an industry originally catering to international tourists that packed the city. In previous shutdowns, there was at least somewhat active domestic tourism that helped keep the eateries afloat, but with the recent more contagious widespread outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19, domestic travellers have mostly ceased as well.
Tourism accounts for about 80% of Pattaya’s GDP, and with lockdown restrictions and entertainment venues closed for months already, the lack of travellers both domestic and international has shuttered many businesses and restaurants permanently and left customers few and far between. And as Covid-19 drags on, restaurant owners and staff that were once willing to take the hit and do their part to protect Thailand from this new viral threat have now lost faith and patience with the government’s response, especially to the last outbreak.
Restaurants and entertainment venues have been protesting, not just in Pattaya, but in Bangkok, Hua Hin, and around the country, insisting the government needs to either allow them to open or offer some sort of financial assistance. Many are also questioning the government’s seemingly slapdash restrictions that often prevent safe activities in restaurants along with risky ones. They argue that things like allowing only outdoor dining and limiting capacities to allow proper social distancing would be far less painful restrictions that are far more effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19.
But restrictions now force all food stalls, markets, food vendors, restaurants, cafes, and even convenience stores to close by 8 pm, with a 9 pm to 4 am curfew, which many, especially late-night dining venues, view as arbitrary as if eating a meal at midnight spreads Covid-19 more than eating at 7 pm. People feel these rules are knee-jerk policies that sound like strong decisive action but are not actually effective measures.
What would help? Vaccines. Until a majority of the country is vaccinated, reopenings will be hampered, domestic travel will be harder, and tourism income can’t easily bounce back. Closing businesses seemed like a needed safety precaution a year ago but now feels to many like just kicking the can down the road when the only thing that will ever really help is widespread vaccination. Restaurants are losing patience for endless restrictions and endless vaccine delays.
SOURCE: The Pattaya News
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