Hungry replace tourists at Bali Hai Pier as Pattaya plans to postpone reopening

As the coronavirus disaster drags on and the lockdown continues, thousands of out-of-work people now rely on the good graces of those who can and do help.

The tourists have been replaced by the hungry and the boats by trucks of donated food at Bali Hai Pier as Pattaya stumbles into its third week of coronavirus lockdown.

Restaurants are closed, except for to-go orders, deliveries, convenience stores and supermarkets must close by 8 p.m. and no one is allowed on the street from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. for at least the next two weeks, but likely until the end of August.

All non-essential businesses, down to beauty salons, are closed and people have nothing to do except make a daily pilgrimage to Bali Hai, the city’s main site for food handouts. More than 1,000 people have shown up, sat two meters apart on hot concrete under a hotter sun, for a box of food and bottle of water.

This is what now passes for daily life for Wichai, a motorcycle-taxi driver. Wichai said he has lost all hope and only hopes he can survive the day without catching the coronavirus.

Foreign customers are a rare treat for motorcycle taxis nowadays.

There’s virtually no work, Wichai said. If he’s lucky, he’ll make 50 baht a day. He’s appreciative of the donations and said he has not done what some have and turned to crime, gambling or even suicide.

The Chonburi Tourism Council said Aug. 2 that Pattaya intends to postpone its Sept. 1 reopening plan because Thailand may not be able to control the high rate of infections and provide sufficient vaccinations until the fourth quarter of the year.

Council President Thanet Supornsahatrangsi said tourism operators have acknowledged that the plan to reopen two districts to international tourists in September may be delayed, as the country grapples with a severe vaccine shortage during the third wave of Covid-19, which began to affect the reopening schemes in Phuket and Samui last week.

Since no one is allowed on the beach now, homeless people have moved to the footpaths.

He said Pattaya might not be able to open as scheduled if the province cannot build herd immunity by the deadline, adding that the situation in Pattaya is similar to the Andaman Islands, particularly with local tourists being restricted by the lockdown order.

Thanet said, even though Phuket has reopened to vaccinated foreigners, stringent preventive measures and weak demand in the early stages mean many shops, restaurants and entertainment venues remain closed, which is discouraging travelers from considering an excursion to Thailand.

It’s a long wait for even a single customer for som tum vendors.

People living hand to mouth keep fighting, although they’re scared of Covid-19. If they do nothing, they will not survive.

Thai Hotels Association (Eastern Chapter) President Phisut Sae-Khu still holds out hope to see the city soft-opening on Sept. 1.