Songkran returns to Pattaya amid Covid concerns
Pattaya is set to welcome back Songkran after a four-year absence due to pandemic restrictions. The festival, which is known for being the biggest and wettest party in Pattaya, will culminate on April 19 with Wan Lai, or the “Big Day.” However, health officials fear that the unbridled celebration could also bring a new spike in Covid-19 infections, as it has in previous years, even with muted festivities.
Songkran, the Thai New Year water festival, is held in Pattaya later than the actual holiday April 13 to April 15. They do this in order to attract more tourists, rather than compete with celebrations around the nation.
Central Pattaya will be hosting a major Songkran Day party, promising major musical artists and events.
On top of that, Cardi B, Chris Brown, and Travis Scott will be among the huge names in town for the actual Songkran dates of April 13-15. They are featured at the world’s biggest hip-hop and rap festival, Rolling Loud touring through during Songkran.
Tourism analysts predict that this year’s Songkran festival may be the biggest ever in terms of crowds due to the long pause since the last full festival in 2019. But it has been a polarising event for many expats, as hundreds of thousands of domestic and foreign tourists converge on the city.
Many long-time foreign residents may flee Pattaya in what is often called “Silly Season.” Those who are not fans of the festival are advised to look for a quick holiday out of the area since the town will be overrun by tourists and revellers.
While the return of the festival is a huge relief to the tourism industry, it is causing concern for health officials as Covid cases rise in the country. Hospitals and community health centres have been ordered to prepare for a spike in Covid infections over Songkran in April and when schools reopen in June.
Public Health permanent-secretary Opas Karnkawinpong has advised people to wear face masks in public and while interacting with at-risk groups. Basic hygiene and frequent hand-washing are also recommended. Booster shots are also advised for people who have not been vaccinated for several months.
People who experience and Covid symptoms should get tested. Opas has urged hospitals and clinics to raise monitoring and disease control measures during Songkran and the back-to-school period.
Health offices in border provinces have also been instructed to monitor the bird flu outbreak in Cambodia and tighten health screening of travellers at border checkpoints.
Despite the recent death of an 11 year old girl in Cambodia due to bird flu, the World Health Organisation reported that the outbreak of H5N1 is still at a low level. Poultry farmers have been instructed to report random mass deaths amongst their animals to authorities. They are also advised to avoid eating animal meat if not properly cooked.
As Pattaya prepares for its biggest and wettest party, hospitals and community health centres are also preparing for a possible spike in Covid infections.
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