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Traders despair as lockdown transforms bustling market into ghost town

Traders despair as lockdown transforms bustling market into ghost town

THAILAND: The partial lockdown of Bangkok which started yesterday (Mar 22) sent business owners, especially in Lat Phrao, scrambling to restrict or close their services, but at the same time shouldering financial burdens amid the outbreak of COVID-19.

COVID-19CoronavirushealthSafety
By Bangkok Post

Monday 23 March 2020, 10:14AM


Tables and chairs at a dine-in restaurant at The Mall Bang Kapi shopping centre are stacked up after restaurants in the capital and surrounding provinces were ordered to stop taking sit-down customers. Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb

Tables and chairs at a dine-in restaurant at The Mall Bang Kapi shopping centre are stacked up after restaurants in the capital and surrounding provinces were ordered to stop taking sit-down customers. Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb

Following the order by Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang on Saturday, Saphan 2 Market remained alive, but its food court was empty, with tables removed from booths to encourage the public to eat at home.

The decline in the number of customers dampened the spirit of the market where familiar faces and shouts once could be seen and heard.

For now, folk clad in face masks rush home once they have done their business. The sweeping closures are seen by many as confusing.

Street vendors, though not included in the partial lockdown, could be seen sitting in a state of despair. The latest order inevitably hit them hard. Who are they selling items to when customers refrain from going out?

Sukanya Kanta, a food seller, said officials asked a market owner to remove tables to ensure every seller will offer only takeaways.

“I can sell khao tom (rice porridge) as usual even though the number of customers has dropped by 30%. The government should have announced the partial closure sooner because I think the outbreak is getting out of hand,” she said.

Karoon Janphongsri, a noodle shop owner, urged the government to communicate better to alleviate panic in the aftermath of the partial lockdown.

UWC Thailand

“On our part, we [restaurant owners] are more than ready to join hands in fighting the coronavirus outbreak. Our shop is providing takeaways and essential utensils for our customers, but I think the situation is as grim as a war. We are helping ourselves because the government must be at a loss,” he said.

Lat Phrao’s Chok Chai 4 Market also remained open, but surrounding shops shut their doors and hung placards reading “closed temporarily”. While a supermarket and convenience stores operated as usual, massage shops, beauty salons, and cosmetic clinics are closed until April 12.

The owner of a beauty salon, who asked not to be named, said she will not earn any income during the three-week closure, but still has to pay rent of up to 20,000 baht per month.

“I am willing to cooperate with authorities. However, if possible, I would like the government to provide relief measures to help tenants,” she said.

Jiraphorn Lertchaipat, a resident, said she is facing the problem of overpricing for home delivery amid the partial lockdown.

“They overcharge me for delivery services,” she said. “Takeaways are more expensive than eat-ins.”

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