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Visitors to national parks must now make reservations before entering, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment says.
Parks are expected to be opened before the end of the month but visitors who usually can just walk in, must now register.
"Online reservations will be required for health reasons," Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa said.
The government’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) is expected to lift many remaining lockdown measures next Friday (June 12).
All Covid-19 vulnerable sites including concert events, pubs and karaoke shops, massage parlours, amusement parks and national parks are expected to be reopened.
Mr Varawut said the same restrictions need to be in place at parks to help visitors to follow social distancing policies.
"By next week, we are going to have an announcement of what visitors should do and should not do while visiting the parks," he said.
"One of the certain measures is that visitors must make a reservation first. They cannot just walk in."
He said the Department of National Parks (DNP) will use a sophisticated reservation system to control the number of park visitors.
He said national parks have high visitor rates, citing the number of people at Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai province on 30 Dec 2018 as being recorded at 20,469, according to DNP figures.
Apart of introducing the reservation policy, the minister said the DNP must require visitors to check in via the "Thai Chana" mobile application.
"I understand that there will be problem at the early stage of implementation so we are going to have a hotline to provide help and information for those who are in need," he said.
He said the reservation and check-in system is likely to be implemented until the Covid-19 pandemic is under control.
However, Mr Varawut said the DNP will consider using both measures in the long run in a bid to keep the number of park visitors at an optimal level, so the ecological system will not be strained.
He said the two-month lockdown during the Covid-19 crisis has allowed time for ecology in national parks to recover. The ministry is also considering new land zoning plans for national parks. Each national park will have zoning regulations based on public accessibility.
Tourist spots face quotas
In a separate development, the Department of Health (DOH) announced it will push for measures to curb the number of visitors to tourist spots to prevent a new surge in Covid-19 transmission as the government considers allowing the resumption of more businesses and activities ahead of schedule.
DOH director-general Panpimol Wipulakorn said that even though some restrictions on domestic travel have been relaxed, travellers should adopt "new normal" practices and maintain social distancing and safety precautions such as wearing masks and regular handwashing wherever they go.
For the next phase of lockdown easing, it may be necessary to issue measures to curb the number of visitors to tourist spots, similar to limiting the number of people going to shopping malls, Dr Panpimol said.
She added that local organisations should also come up with measures to control the number of visitors to beaches in their respective provinces to prevent overcrowding. Tourists and workers in the service industry should also be required to wear masks while on the beaches, Dr Panpimol said.
Enough hand sanitisers should also be provided for beach-goers while toilets and bathrooms on beachfronts should be cleaned every two hours, she said, adding that visitors must check in and out at beaches so they can be traced, among other measures.
Dr Panpimol said the department has been monitoring every phase of relaxation and found that while people continue to wash their hands regularly, they are tending to wear face masks in public places less.
She also said movie-goers are not prohibited from eating popcorn and soft drinks in cinemas, but they have been urged to take precautions and wear masks all the time.
More restrictions to be lifted
Meanwhile, Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said on Friday that some businesses and activities will be allowed to reopen ahead of schedule in the final phase of the relaxation of the Covid-19 lockdown if they can give assurances that they have plans to prevent virus transmission.
Dr Taweesilp said that the CCSA has regularly discussed the fourth and final phase of relaxation for businesses and activities that are in the red or high-risk category such as pubs and bars.
The spokesman quoted Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is the CCSA’s director, as saying that any businesses and activities that come up with plans to prevent transmissions may be permitted to reopen ahead of the next stage of relaxation which will effectively lead to a complete reopening of the country.
However, such plans have to be approved by the CCSA’s business resumption committee first, Dr Taweesilp said.
The committee is headed by National Security Council secretary-general Somsak Roongsita.
The government plans to completely lift the lockdown on all businesses and activities on July 1 across the country. This includes lifting inter-provincial travel restrictions as well as ending the emergency decree and curfew.
The emergency decree, which was invoked on March 26 to deal with Covid-19, will end in June, and the ban on international travel would end at the same time it is lifted.
The CCSA on Friday reported one new case of Covid-19 infection, an asymptomatic returnee from Kuwait who tested positive just before leaving quarantine. There were no new deaths.