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Songkran: Economy booster or Covid-19 spreader?



PHOTO: Covid-19 can't dampen the Songkran water festival's spirit!

While the government is encouraging people to enjoy themselves and spend money in the struggling economy for the upcoming Songkran Festival, some Covid-19 experts are warning that this may bring about a third or even fourth wave of infections. The past has shown that people letting loose and partying free is often the source of viral outbreaks, as was the case last year and again just recently in Bangkok pubs of Thong Lor. The chief of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University, Dr Yong Poovorawan, posted a warning on his Facebook page Sunday to those who would go out and celebrate recklessly.

“Be prepared to see the daily infection rates jump from tens to hundreds per day after the Songkran festival. We have become too complacent and that means we need to waste a lot of financial resources for testing, monitoring and curing the disease.”

Yong warned that relaxed restrictions in popular areas for nightlife and entertainment are a major contributing factor to the rapid spread of Covid-19 infections. Songkran would be a macro version of this. While vaccines are now becoming available throughout Thailand, the rate of vaccination and the speed at which they’re being deployed is not fast enough to keep us safe from outbreaks. While Phuket aims to have a 70% vaccination rate by July 1st, all of Thailand will likely not be fully vaccinated before the end of the year. Some estimate it will take 2 years for immunization rates to hit 70% worldwide.

While Thailand has relatively few Covid-19 infections leading into Songkran, a few recent spikes have officials wary again. Prisons in Surat Thani and Narathiwat have gone into lockdown after over 100 infections were discovered. And an outbreak just a few days ago from an entertainment area has now been linked to at least 71 new coronavirus cases, including a now-debunked rumour of the Deputy Prime Minister’s infection, says the Department of Disease Control. In Khon Kaen, 2 doctors were found to be infected with Covid-19, and their hospital decided to cease taking on new patients and postponed scheduled operations as a result.

Authorities still plan on moving ahead with Songkran festivities despite worries of the spread Covid-19. It is advised that those celebrating exercise caution, social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand sanitizing to try to neutralise any new outbreaks.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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