Following several days of increasing Covid-19 cases in Thailand, especially dozens of cases linked to entertainment venues in Bangkok which have also affected the foreign community, some prominent Thai doctors are ringing warning bells and raising concerns on social media.
These include Dr. Thira Woratanarat an associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Chulalongkorn University, Dr. Yong Poovarawan, a medical professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Chulalongkorn University, and more. Both doctors have been well documented on Thai media for their numerous warnings and predictions around the disease over the past year, the majority erring caution or leaning towards predictive models that were generally negative.
A total of 70 recent Covid-19 cases have now been linked to entertainment venues in Bangkok, including multiple foreign nationals, and have spread out to other provinces, including Chonburi.
Dr. Thira, in a post on his social media accounts, has urged Thai people to consider refraining from travel during Songkran and to stay home, even while business owners and domestic tourism destinations have been attempting to encourage Thais to travel over Songkran, hoping to make up for devastated business over the prior New Year period and a year of shutdowns, restrictions, and uncertainty over Covid-19.
Songkran, the Thai New Year and Thailand’s biggest holiday, is also called the water festival due to its world-famous water fights, foam parties, and other events but all those have been previously banned this year by the Thai government. Only traditional low-key activities like religious prayer, sprinkling water on Buddhist statues, and showing respect to elders are allowed this year.
Regardless, Dr. Thira and other medical professionals are concerned about the number of people that may travel and unknowingly have the Covid-19 virus as an asymptomatic carrier and possibly bring the disease to the elderly in their home provinces. Songkran is the largest period of traffic and movement of Thai people yearly, similar to Christmas or Thanksgiving in other countries, and as a six-day holiday is the longest break many Thais get all year and the only chance to see their families after a year of work in Bangkok or other areas.
Meanwhile, Dr. Yong, who has also been known for his prior predictions, has hinted at Songkran being a potential super spreader, even with the “fun” events banned, and has shown concern over the recent clusters at entertainment venues. He has also mused about officials potentially considering increased restrictions or measures around Songkran to help control the situation, including the tightening of entertainment venues. While he didn’t directly suggest a draconian closure of bars, clubs, and other venues like what happened last summer and in January, he did say that authorities should consider all options to help control the spread of Covid-19 over Songkran.
This comes following reports of some entertainment venues linked to the recent clusters in Bangkok allegedly not following all Covid-19 precautions, such as letting in more people than is legally allowed, not closing at legal closing times, not properly using Covid-19 check-in measures, and other control regulations allegedly not followed.
The Thai government and Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has not directly replied to the doctors’ warnings, although both doctors are advisors to the government. It is a careful balance as any additional restrictions or measures over Thailand’s biggest holiday would majorly impact the economy and people’s livelihoods. Financial experts are already predicting the worst Songkran in almost a decade, not counting last year when the festival was entirely canceled.