Covid-19: New stringent measures trigger panic buying in Bangkok

Shoppers crowd the check-out counters of the Ramkhamhaeng branch of Makro store as Bangkokians rush to stock-pile foods and other essential items following a new set of stringent measures announced by Bangkok authorities to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bangkok residents flocked to stock up on essential goods this afternoon after the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) ordered the closure of most retail businesses, bowling alleys, public swimming pools and golf courses, starting tomorrow to stem the spread of coronavirus infections.

Pubs, bars and cinemas in Bangkok have already been closed.

All department stores will also be closed, except for their supermarket and pharmacy sections while food-shops and restaurants will be allowed to serve only take-home orders.  Grocery and convenience stores will stay open except for their eatery sections

Markets, with the exception of fresh foods sections, will also be closed.

The new measures, to take effect between March 22-April 12, have triggered a rush to supermarkets in the city. Long queues were seen at check-out counters while traffic jams were reported in front of many of these outlets.

The measures were adopted as the Public Health Ministry confirmed that COVID-19 cases in Thailand jumped to 89 today, in the largest single day increase to date, bringing the total confirmed infections in the country to 411.

Establishments facing the closure include:

  • Spa, health and massage parlours
  • Weight loss clinics
  • Skating and roller blade rings
  • Beauty salons
  • Bowling alleys
  • Theme parks
  • Golf courses & driving ranges
  • Public swimming pools
  • Tattoo parlours
  • Nurseries
  • Cock-fight rings
  • Conference facilities
  • Exhibition halls
  • Amulet trading grounds
  • Markets (excluding markets that offer fresh food, vegetables and food stalls)
  • All shopping malls (excluding the supermarket section)
  • All public and private educational institutions

The BMA will also seek cooperation from private companies by allowing their employees to work at home, and from state agencies by arranging staggered working schedules for their officials.

After invoking Section 35 of the Infectious Disease Act, Bangkok’s governor Aswin Kwanmuag appealed to residents to stay calm and refrain from stockpiling food, assuring that all food shops, and restaurants which offer take-home or delivery of cooked food, traditional fresh markets and supermarkets will remain operational.

Defending the stringent measure, taken after receiving warnings from several medical experts, the governor said that the existing health system will not be able to cope if preventive measures are not taken now.

Regarding mass public transport, Aswin said that passengers may have to wait a bit longer because the services will be reduced, adding “The germs are all around us, please understand the BMA’s action.  We must help to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  We are at a point which will determine whether we can contain the contagion or not.”

At a Tesco Lotus store in Bang Sue district, a long queue formed as shoppers waited for trolleys. One baked goods vendor, in the plaza area of the store, said she was confused as to whether she is allowed to open.

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