May 14, 2020 / 7:21 AM / 3 months ago

Panda dolls kick pandemic blues for Thai diners

BANGKOK (Reuters) - 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.

“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.

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

Slideshow (5 Images)

“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.”

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.

Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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