Pattaya dips its toe into the waters of economic revival

Pattaya and Jomtien beaches remain closed for now with an uncertain future.

The government’s top health committee has taken the plunge. Sort of anyway. The CCSA (Center forCovid-19 Situation Administration) spokesman said the relaxation of some Covid regulations is to enable the public to resume “as normal a life as possible.” The Bangkok Bank’s press release supported the move as necessary to rescue the drowning gross domestic product. Meanwhile, the media giant Bloomberg placed Thailand in the bottom countries of the world for business environment right now.

For Pattaya, one of the country’s dark-red zones, the new policy is a mixed bag. It is fine once again to open restaurants, golf courses, department stores, malls and the like. But the proviso that the staff should be doubly-vaccinated in most cases poses the question who can lawfully turn up for work. Thailand is a country where the majority of the population has not had its first injection yet. Moreover, the rollout in Pattaya is well behind that in Bangkok.

New government rules aim to make Pattaya more lively, at any rate before curfew time.

The same goes for the customers in some contexts. The CCSA section on restaurants specifically restricts the clientele to those who can prove double vaccination and/or produce a certificate showing they have taken a negative antigen test in the last seven days. Not to mention the limits on how full the restaurant can be and how social distancing is being enforced. These regulations fall to the police and local authority inspectors to enforce. If history is any guide, visits will be few and far between in the hundreds and hundreds of sois where eateries are to be found. The CCSA is silent on the serving of alcohol, but presumably it remains off the table. Perhaps literally.

The Pattaya farang expat population is delighted at the return of golf to resuscitate its somewhat mundane existence. But they are mostly elderly men and should note that the CCSA tells everyone over 60 to stay at home unless an outside duty-call is unavoidable. Perhaps the answer is that golf is indeed as essential as that. Other oddities in the rules are that haircuts must not last longer than an hour, a very generous discretion to the many baldies in Pattaya, and that beauty shops are open but only for the sale of products and not for personal services.

At one time there were hundreds of Pattaya massage parlors, but many had closed permanently for lack of customers before the current lockdown took effect. How many will actually reopen on September 1 remains to be seen. All staff have to be fully vaccinated and must restrict the massage to feet and the lower leg. Customers must also be masked and limit their attendance to sixty minutes. Things ain’t what they used to be and the curfew will still begin at 21.00 hours.

The new rules are silent on the immediate future of Pattaya beaches and swimming in the sea. This awesome subject is likely to be the subject of a Chonburi governor’s proclamation expected in a few days which, incidentally, could ink in other details as well. But the real issue is enforcement. Voluntarism simply doesn’t work as many people push discretionary clauses to their limit to reduce the boredom. The CCSA takes the view that Thailand’s current health crisis has peaked. Let’s hope they’re right.