We must have Songkran, says PM

We must have Songkran, says PM

But festivities must respect Covid threat

Phra Pradaeng district of Samut Prakan celebrates the water festival in April 2019. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Phra Pradaeng district of Samut Prakan celebrates the water festival in April 2019. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Monday insisted that Songkran celebrations be held to revitalise the struggling tourism industry.

People would be allowed to travel across the country to celebrate, the PM said, but each area must impose measures to prevent the virus spreading.

Gen Prayut said he wanted to see the economy improve and people's income boosted by tourism activities over the long holiday.

He therefore vowed to ease restrictions ahead of the festival so that people had enough time to plan their trips and make hotel reservations.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said Songkran would this year be celebrated as a "new normal" festival, the goal being to presserve Thai culture while containing the virus.

Spokesperson Apisamai Srirangson said the CCSA would meet next Monday to consider rolling out a further relaxation of restrictions in three phases.

The first phase starting on April 1, the easing would be in line with the government's vaccination plan with adjustments to the colour-coded status of each province, she said.

The second phase will include the lifting of the state of emergency at the end of May, and thereafter a reliance on communicable disease laws to contain the virus.

From Oct 1, the third phase will likely begin with a further easing of measures, including entry and quarantine requirements for foreign visitors. This phase will coincide with more people having been given their Covid-19 vaccinations.

Quarantine requirements would vary based on the vaccination status of foreign visitors, Dr Apisamai said.

The Public Health Ministry is working in tandem with the Foreign Affairs Ministry on how to ease Covid-19 measures and the latter is planning for the use of vaccine passports.

People who have been vaccinated will be required to use a vaccine passport to travel overseas in compliance with measures set by each country, said the spokesperson.

Dr Apisamai said CCSA officials favoured Oct 1 for the easing of restrictions on travellers who had been given an approved vaccine.

The final decision would be made by the CCSA board, chaired by the premier, at its meeting next Monday.

Regarding the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations, Dr Apisamai said the PM was focused on linking the distribution of the vaccine and its compliance with the easing of restrictions.

She said it was the PM's policy to give the vaccine to important economic and tourist cities first, with the highest priority given to healthcare workers, immigration officers, customs officers, people with congenital diseases, police and military officers, plus civilians in at-risk places such as quarantine facilities and airports.

The CCSA announced 71 new cases on Monday with no new deaths. The country's daily infection rate has fallen from triple to double digits since the second wave in mid-December.

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