Thailand allowed shopping malls in the capital Bangkok to reopen on Wednesday and restaurants to operate at half capacity, after nearly three months of tough restrictions aimed at containing the country’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

The move comes after infections numbers started falling in the middle of last month and with the government under pressure here to ease lockdown measures due to the impact on the economy.

“Thai citizens like me…will come back to normal life,” said Wanvipa Luepromchian, who was getting her hair cut in a salon in the Siam Paragon mall in Bangkok.

The government in July here started imposing strict measures including closing malls and prohibiting restaurant dining as the number of new infections surged due to the Delta variant.

At its peak, authorities reported over 23,000 new cases in a single day in mid-August.

On Wednesday, the health ministry reported 14,802 new cases and 252 additional deaths. Thailand has overall reported 1.2 million cases and 11,841 fatalities.

“If you (the government) lockdown everything that’s so dangerous for the economy in Thailand,” Wanvipa said.

A staff member prepares to open a restaurant on the first day of coronavirus restrictions lift on retail and dining in Bangkok and other high-risk areas to revive the economy, as the country battles its worst coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Bangkok, Thailand. Image: Reuters

Last week, the government also allowed here some domestic flights to resume.

Restaurants dining can also restart, but at half the capacity to allow for social distancing.

“Customers need to get temperatures checked before entering and keep social distancing with only two people on one table, but if they are family, they can be seated together,” said restaurant manager Nichapha Jiwvaganont.

While a night time curfew remains in place in Bangkok, the partial reopening will be supportive for Thailand’s struggling economy.

A joint business group on Wednesday raised here its 2021 economic forecast from between a 0.5% contraction to 1% growth from a contraction of 1.5% to 0% growth as curbs were relaxed.

REUTERS | BANGKOK

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