Panda dolls kick COVID-19 blues for Thai diners

BANGKOK: Can’t bear to eat alone?

One restaurant in Thailand is ensuring it meets new social distancing guidelines, and providing lonely diners a bit of company, by seating stuffed pandas at its tables.

Thailand earlier this month relaxed some restrictions on businesses as the number of coronavirus cases slowed, allowing restaurants to reopen but with strict rules in place to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok. (Photo: Reuters)

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok

A stuffed panda doll and a plastic barrier are used as part of social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, at the Maison Saigon restaurant that reopened after the easing of restrictions in Bangkok, on May 13, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)

“Earlier we had only one chair for the tables where the customer came alone. But for me, it felt strange, so I thought I’d give them some company,” said Natthwut Rodchanapanthkul, the owner of Maison Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant in Bangkok.

Sitting opposite one of the panda dolls, diner Sawit Chaiphuek said he was happy to have some company as he stepped out to eat for the first time in months.

“The doll makes me feel less lonely eating by myself,” said Sawit, 25.

READ: Thailand reports no new cases of COVID-19 for first time since Mar 9

Siriporn Assavakarint, another customer, said the new seating rules often bamboozled diners, and the army of plush pandas made things much clearer.

“It’s a lot easier to understand compared to other restaurants where people always get confused about where to sit and end up sitting too close to each other.”

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok

An employee puts a hat on a stuffed panda doll used as part of social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, at the Maison Saigon restaurant that reopened after the easing of restrictions in Bangkok, on May 13, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)

Thailand reported one new coronavirus case on Thursday and no new deaths, bringing the total to 3,018 cases and 56 deaths since the outbreak started in January.

On Wednesday, it reported zero new cases for the first time since early March, before the lockdown began.

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