Virus curbs shutter thousands of eateries


When restaurant owner Chirayu Na Ranong heard the Thai government announce new coronavirus restrictions in Bangkok in April, he burst into tears.

The latest curbs were the final straw for his Chu Chocolate Bar & Cafe in the centre of the city. The cafe, popular with both tourists and locals for the past decade, closed its doors for the last time this week.

“I knew that it was over, because we were already just barely surviving, and then with one more lockdown, we wouldn’t have enough money to pay, ” Chirayu, 36, said as his staff cleared out the restaurant.

“I followed the government’s order, I did what they told me to do, and then I couldn’t survive. I couldn’t make a living.”

The cafe’s chairs were stacked neatly near a big glass window that overlooked the empty city street, while several trash bags were lined up in front of what used to be a display of mouth-watering desserts.

Thailand’s food and beverage industry has been hit hard by restrictions on dine-in restaurants and the closures of pubs and bars, with sales falling drastically as people worked from home and tourist numbers dwindled to record lows.

The Thai Restaurant Association has estimated the industry is losing up to 1.4 billion baht (RM185mil) per day under the current restrictions and about 500,000 workers have lost their jobs.

Around 50,000 restaurants have shut down over the past two months, either temporarily or permanently, the association said. It expects at least 10,000 to go out of business completely by the end of the outbreak.

“The government told us to stop our businesses, but no help has arrived, ” Taniwan Koonmongkon, the association’s president, told Reuters. “It has never been this bad. We’re hanging by a thread.”

Industry groups have said that is not enough for many operators who have run out of cash to keep their staff and pay rent in the absence of financial assistance from the government. — Reuters

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