BMA to decide on Songkran
Water splashing may yet be permitted
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) will on Monday consider whether to allow water-splashing activities on Khao San Road during Songkran, as requested by business operators.
Business operators in the popular backpacker area, and tourist spots in other provinces such as Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya, on Thursday submitted a joint petition to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) asking it to ease the ban.
The CCSA previously agreed that the annual celebrations could proceed provided there was no alcohol at organised events.
People will also be encouraged to engage in traditional activities without water splashing.
Business operators along Khao San Road complained the measure would cause them to lose income.
City clerk Khachit Chatchawanit said the Bangkok communicable disease committee will meet to consider their request.
"Any decision from the committee on Monday will be followed by an announcement the following day.
"The committee will consider what is best for Bangkok residents," Mr Khachit said.
Sa-nga Ruangwatthanakul, president of the association of business operators on Khao San Road, said the group has presented measures for screening and limiting participants for consideration by the CCSA.
"We will put in place measures to handle revellers on the 400-metre stretch of Khao San Road.
"We want to explain to the government that the country is trying to welcome tourists back, particularly in the summer when the Songkran festival will be held," he said.
"But the famous water-splashing is banned. With such a ban, how can we attract them to the country?" he asked.
"We ask the government to allow the activity on April 12-15 to promote the festival," Mr Sa-nga added.
Apisamai Srirangson, assistant spokeswoman for the CCSA, said Songkran festivities must be held in line with precautions from the Public Health Ministry, particularly a ban on water fights and powder smearing, and the sale of alcohol in public.
"Songkran events can still be held as long as the right precautions are taken, and people can travel to other provinces to visit their relatives and take part in traditional activities there,'' Dr Apisamai said.
Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said provincial communicable disease authorities can propose a relaxation of the restrictions on Songkran activities to the CCSA's operations centre, which will forward them to the CCSA.
In Chiang Mai, which will be reclassified by the CCSA as a blue zone promoted for tourism from April 1, local business operators are busy preparing for an influx of tourists over Songkran.
Saksakul Suppakrit-anant, deputy director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Chiang Mai branch, welcomed the CCSA's decision.
He said an estimated 100,000 tourists are expected to visit the northern province during Songkran and operators of hotels and restaurants are willing to strictly follow Covid-19 precautions.
The number of confirmed daily cases of Covid-19 hit 27,024 during the past 24 hours, with 82 Covid-related fatalities recorded, the Public Health Ministry announced on Thursday.
The figures did not include 26,768 positive results from antigen tests, however.
Just 46 of the new infections were detected in new arrivals from other countries, with the rest transmitted inside Thailand's borders, including 54 among prison inmates.
Bangkok had most new cases at 3,722, followed by 1,746 in Nakhon Si Thammarat, 1,341 in Chon Buri, 920 in Samut Prakan, 861 in Songkhla, 849 in Samut Sakhon, 730 in Roi Et, 593 in Rayong, 592 in Ratchaburi and 574 in Chachoengsao.
"Officials are concerned about clusters among medical personnel including those at Siriraj, Bangkok Christian and Praram 9 hospitals," Dr Apisamai said.
"Meanwhile, clusters are shrinking noticeably at schools and factories."
The 82 new fatalities ranged in age from just one-month-old to 95 years of age, and included one Briton and five Myanmar nationals.
"Of the 82 fatalities, as many as 46 had not received even their first vaccine shot. Six others got their first jab just before they were infected, and developed severe symptoms," Dr Apisamai said.
"Sixteen of them had received two shots but no booster.
"Six others had only recently received their booster shot," the doctor added.