Be socially responsible this Songkran holiday
The other day, Facebook Memories showed me pictures of a lonely supermarket in Siam Paragon I had posted while buying household products during lockdown last year. It seemed like a digital diary to remind me how I had celebrated the Songkran festival and this year, my holiday plan has once again been blown to pieces due to a third Covid-19 wave that has hit Thailand.
Back in March last year, Lumpinee Boxing Stadium was considered to be the super-spreader site, while this time Thong Lor is the epicentre of transmissions of the UK variant. At least 11 police officers at Thong Lor station have been infected while Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob reportedly caught the virus from an official who visited a pub in Bangkok.
Meanwhile, some iconic figures in the entertainment industry like songwriter-singer Apiwat "Stamp" Eurthavorsuk, rapper Way Titanium, Wichian "DJ Petjah" Kusolmanomai, actor Nutchapan "Pepo" Paramacharoenroj, Thiti "Bank" Mahayotaruk and executive Jongjit Inthung of Nadao Bangkok have also confirmed that they have come down with Covid-19 after participating in events.
Famous stars and staff of some production houses have been forced to stop filming and undergo self-isolation after some supporting actors tested positive. The situation might get worse if some celebrities try to conceal their timelines by erasing photos on social media while hosting parties without wearing masks and do not maintain social distance.
At this point, we have to admit that the new outbreak is a result of negligence. However, this is not the time to blame each other but work together to contain the spread of virus. Those who are at a high risk of infection should take responsibility for the greater good of society. Just present yourself at a hospital, take a swab test and self-isolate. It's a very simple way to save yourself, your family and friends.
According to Prof Yong Poovorawan from the Faculty of Medicine at Chulalongkorn University, the UK variant can spread 1.7 times quicker than the original coronavirus strain. The latest outbreak is the first time local infections are rising due to the new variant.
In January, the World Health Organization had reported that the British strain had spread to more than 60 countries worldwide, including the United States, Cambodia, India and Russia. Now, several countries like Japan, France, South Korea and Germany are busy dealing with a third and fourth virus outbreak that has disrupted the economic recovery.
Back in Thailand, last week the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration ordered the closure of all entertainment venues in 41 provinces for at least two weeks to stem virus spread, especially in Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Buri Ram, Chiang Mai, Pathum Thani, Phuket and Prachuap Khiri Khan.
Meanwhile, the tourist towns of Buri Ram, Bung Kan, Nakhon Ratchasima and Phetchabun have also issued orders that people travelling from Bangkok, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan and Nakhon Pathom must self-quarantine upon arrival. This is a preventive measure for the long holiday period set to begin tomorrow which will see many family reunions.
In the South, the resort island of Phuket -- the most popular destination for holidaymakers during the Thai New Year -- is working hard to monitor local residents who were present at the Indoor Sports Stadium in Saphan Hin after one person was found to be infected with the virus.
Late last month, the authorities had reduced the quarantine period for foreign arrivals as the Tourism Authority of Thailand launched a roadmap to reopen the country. In July, Phuket has been slated to welcome a group of inoculated tourists under the Phuket Sandbox scheme -- this means this island has two and a half months to contain the spread of the virus and return to normal to gain tourists' trust.
With more than 930,000 doses to be administered, Phuket residents have been prioritised for the vaccine, however, there is still a 30-40% chance of infection despite this. People still need to wear a mask, wash their hands often and maintain social distance.
Since Bangkok has been listed as a high-risk area, staying at home and enjoying a movie marathon on Netflix seems to be the best solution. This year, there will be no water splashing again. I should get used to this new normal and how we celebrate Thailand's much-loved Songkran Festival.
Pattarawadee Saengmanee is a writer for the Bangkok Post.