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Panda dolls cheer up Thai diners amid social distancing

May 14, 2020 | 21:42

 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.  

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Customers are eating their food next to stuffed pandas ( Reuters )

Owner of Maison Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant, Natthwut Rodchanapanthkul, came up with the idea as a way of providing company for customers while adhering to social distancing rules.

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

Under new social distancing guidelines, diners have to sit diagonally from each other

panda dolls cheer up thai diners amid social distancing

A stuffed panda doll and a plastic barrier are used as part of social distancing measures in one Thai restaurant (REUTERS)

Speaking about how he came up with the idea, Mr Rodchanapanthkul said his venue looked peculiar in post-lockdown light.

“Earlier we had only one chair for the tables where the customer came alone," he explained.

"But for me, it felt strange, so I thought I’d give them some company.”

panda dolls cheer up thai diners amid social distancing

An employee puts a hat on a stuffed panda used as part of social distancing measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 (REUTERS)

So far the pandas have gone down well with diners. Customer Sawit Chaiphuek said he was happy to have some company as he stepped out to eat for the first time in months.

Sitting opposite one of the bears, the 25-year-old said: “The doll makes me feel less lonely eating by myself."

panda dolls cheer up thai diners amid social distancing

People have dinner next to stuffed pandas at the Maison Saigon restaurant (REUTERS)

Another customer, Siriporn Assavakarint, 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,” he said.

panda dolls cheer up thai diners amid social distancing

The Maison Saigon restaurant has incorporated novel ideas to comply with social distancing against novel coronavirus (REUTERS)

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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