BANGKOK, May 21 (CNA) - A mall in Thailand has swapped lift buttons for foot pedals in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as well as help restore normalcy and get shoppers spending again.

Customers at Bangkok's Seacon Square were surprised and confused this week to find pedals in front of the elevators and inside, but they welcomed the new hands-free enhancement as a smart move to stay healthy.

"They did a good job in preparing this. I feel much safer because we use our hands to do various things all the time," said a customer who disclosed only her first name, Watcharaporn.

"Now that we can use our foot to press the elevator, it's really great."

Thailand opened malls and department stores on Sunday (May 17) for the first time since March, its second phase of relaxing measures as the number of new coronavirus cases slows. It has confirmed 3,034 cases and 56 deaths.

Its economy, Southeast Asia's second-largest, contracted at its sharpest pace in eight years in the first quarter, pushing it into recession sooner than expected, as the coronavirus outbreak hit tourism and domestic activity.

The central bank cut its benchmark interest rate for the third time this year to a record low on Wednesday.

Prote Sosothikul, vice president of Seacon Development, which oversees the mall, said the foot pedals gave shoppers some peace of mind. "The easiest way to get infected is when you touch an object that has been contaminated," he said.

"Eventually touch your face and the virus will go into your mouth, your eyes, or whatever. So we came up with this idea of hands-free, foot-operated elevator."