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Coronavirus: Closed-up restaurant Bangkok Thai cooks up a surprise for Royal Victoria Hospital's busy staff

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EDMUND King and staff - Banny, Jeb, King and Dream

EDMUND King and staff - Banny, Jeb, King and Dream

EDMUND King and staff - Banny, Jeb, King and Dream

A Belfast restaurateur who gave meals away to hospital workers just hours before coronavirus forced him to shut up shop temporarily has said he did it to show his appreciation for the people whose job is to save lives.

Edmund Byrne had to close Bangkok Thai near City Hall on Thursday after a dramatic slump in demand for the eatery, which seats 90 people.

But before pulling down the shutters, the 50-year-old Newry native used the remainder of his produce to cook 160 meals for employees at the Royal Victoria Hospital in a heart-warming gesture.

Mr Byrne, who employs 30 full and part-time staff, told the Belfast Telegraph that he should have been celebrating his restaurant's second anniversary rather than closing its doors.

But ahead of killing off the ovens for an indeterminate period of time came the idea for one final act of kindness.

"We were looking at the products remaining, wondering what to do and then decided we wanted to do something really good with it," he said.

"All we could think of was giving the hospital staff a bit of relief because they're deeply stressed getting prepared for the terrible wave that's on the way.

"The guys prepared all the food we had in the place and sent up 160 meals.

"There was Thai green and red curries with a variety of rice and some Thai prawn crackers and we brought it all up to the Royal on Thursday around 7.30pm for the emergency department workers."

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EDMUND King and staff - Banny, Jeb, King and Dream

EDMUND King and staff - Banny, Jeb, King and Dream

EDMUND King and staff - Banny, Jeb, King and Dream

Mr Byrne said they got a fantastic reaction from grateful staff.

"I can't tell you how delighted they were," he said.

"I still feel like crying every time I think about it.

"The restaurant guys put up a Facebook post about what we were doing and the medics were giving each other high fives every time there were another 10 'likes' on it. Once we got to 300 they were ecstatic.

"The frontline staff are heading into a dark period when they don't know what's happening so it felt good to do something for them. They were really thrilled."

He added: "I just wanted to show my appreciation for everything that medical staff are doing for us during his time of crisis. It was our way of helping in a very small capacity. These are the people who are going to save us at the end of the day."

The Belfast businessman, who is married to former teacher Kim, aged in her 40s and now a child therapist, also spoke of his fears for the future - but took some comfort after getting good news from the Government last night which means he can look after his 30 staff, who he previously thought he would have to temporarily let go.

"With the onset of coronavirus, demand deteriorated rapidly," he said. "Business was going down and the customers were moving away from it.

"Over the last number of weeks, as people become more prepared for the lockdown, it became inevitable that we were going to have to attempt to do takeaway in order to facilitate the customers and keep the staff employed.

"Initially people have been buying too much (from supermarkets) and not really buying takeaways at all.

"But now with this help from the Government we can focus on that end of the market and will see where we are down the line."

He added: "We thought we were going to have to lay everybody off at least temporarily, but now we've been given a reprise and we'll all muddle together somehow for the foreseeable future."

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