Thailand eases curbs on retail and restaurants to spur economy

BANGKOK, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Thailand will lift most coronavirus restrictions on retail and dining from next month and permit gatherings of up to 25 people in Bangkok and other high risk areas, its COVID-19 task force said on Friday.

Easing restrictions and adjusting measures were necessary to revive the economy safely, the task force said, as the country battles its worst coronavirus outbreak and struggles to ramp up vaccinations, with only 1 in 10 people inoculated so far.

From Sept. 1, shopping malls, salons, barber shops, foot massages and sports fields in 29 high-risk provinces including Bangkok, are allowed to resume operations, while restaurants can open to diners, the task force said.

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Authorities asked business operators to ensure service staff are fully vaccinated and regularly tested with antigen kits, and to require customers to show proof of vaccination and negative tests.

Thailand reported 18,702 new cases and 273 new deaths on Friday, among some 1.14 million cases and 10,587 deaths overall, the overwhelming majority since April.

Its current struggle is with the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus, which has seen record deaths during August.

"We need to adjust the way we handle and live with the disease safely... by adjusting strategy and build confidence so disease control measures are in line with reviving the economy safely," task force spokeswoman Apisamai Srirangsan told a briefing.

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Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty

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