Social distancing for Songkran, Thailand’s New Year water festival

Songkran 2019 in Koh Tao / Photo by Caitlin Ashworth

Thailand’s massive water festival Songkran, celebrating the Thai New Year, got the “okay” as long as the festivities are in line with Covid-19 prevention measures. PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says people need to abide by social distancing rules during the Songkran holiday from April 13 to 15… So make sure your water gun shoots at a long range.

For long distance water fights, the Super Soaker CPS 2000 is recommended by Wirecutter for the New York Times. They say it’s the most powerful mass-produced water gun in history, shooting at a 15-metre range at nearly a litre per second. The CPS 2000 is around $150 USD, so a more affordable option would be the plunger-style water gun from Steam Machine, which cost around $20 USD. While the Steam Machine water launchers can shoot at a range of up to 21 metres, it needs to be refilled often and is best used near a pool or a barrel of water.

Social distancing for Songkran, Thailand's New Year water festival | News by Thaiger
Songkran 2019 in Koh Tao / Photo by Caitlin Ashworth

Allowing Songkran to take place this year is intended to help stimulate the economy which was battered over the past year due to the pandemic. Along with the prime minister, Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome also insisted that disease prevention measures must be strictly maintained, adding that social distancing and capacity limits are “chief” among the measures.

Popular spots for Songkran celebrations, like Bangkok’s Khao San Road, are given the “okay” to hold events, as long as they abide by the rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19. For Khao San Road, famous among foreign backpackers, the festival can give a boost to local businesses and vendors who have been struggling to earn an income due to the lack of tourists, according to president of the Khao San Business Association Sanga Ruangwattanakul.

“We know that it won’t help much as there are still no international tourists, but at least it is a good starting point to reignite business activities on Khao San Road… At the moment, we can only count on the support of local tourists to survive.”

He says 80% of the business activities on the street rely on foreign tourists. Many businesses that rely heavily on tourists, like massage shops and souvenir shops, there are “no customers at all.”

“For pubs and bars, there are just a few customers per night. Out of 500 entrepreneurs on the road, only 50 are still operating.”

Travel restrictions are likely to be eased in time for Songkran, Prayut says, adding that the government is still reviewing the rules for the holiday.

“The government is in the process of considering what can be allowed, whether to permit some activities or all of them. But if the virus spreads, the government might be blamed for it…So I call for your understanding. Easing restrictions is not an easy call to make since the government has to take responsibility for the whole country.”

Director of the Health Science Centre of Emerging Diseases at Chulalongkorn University, Thiravat Hemachudha, said he was concerned with the government’s plan to relax restrictions during the water festival. While the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration reported a decline in the number of daily coronavirus infections, he says the CCSA did not report on 100 infections at a plant in Samut Sakhon.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Wirecutter

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Caitlin Ashworth

Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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