BANGKOK — The government’s coronavirus management center on Monday said the three-day Songkran holidays should be postponed this year in order to contain the virus outbreak.
The meeting, chaired by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, concluded that the three-day holidays should be celebrated in July instead of April. Their decision came after a virologist said Thais should learn from China’s example and work through the Thai New Year to prevent mass movement of the population.
“China was able to contain the outbreak during the Lunar New Year by preventing the movement of people. Therefore, the epidemic is limited to Hubei province and now they are closer to containing it,” Yong Poovorawan, chief of Chulalongkorn University’s Center of Excellence in Clinical Virology, wrote online.
He continued, “I ask the Thai New Year should be deferred and declared as working days. When the epidemic has settled down, then we should find substitute days for it.”
The government’s crisis center also proposed that all nightlife establishments move their closing to 8pm, in order to deter large gatherings.
A government spokeswoman said the Cabinet will meet on Tuesday and decide whether to adopt the proposals.
The Thai New Year, or Songkran, starts from April 13 to 15. Revelers splash water and engage in other activities which typically draw huge crowds of tourists in major cities, while many commuters also return to their hometowns in the provinces.
Several officials already floated the idea of moving one of the most anticipated festivities on Thai calendar. Last week, the Tourism Authority of Thailand toyed with the idea of postponing it to July, saying that the water is abundant due to the rainy season in that month.
Many Songkran-related events have announced their cancellations over the past few weeks, including one at Khaosan Road.
The government also asked other organizers to either cancel or postpone their events, tourism minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan said on Friday.
Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul went as far as proposing to temporarily close all bars across the country as a measure to contain the spread of coronavirus.
A business guild in the resort town of Pattaya said it’s ready to comply with the policy.
“Pattaya will certainly be affected by this measure, but if the government orders us to do so, we will cooperate with the measure even though the cause of this problem is from the pubs in Bangkok,” secretary of the Entertainment & Tourism Association Of Pattaya City Dumrongkiet Pinitkarn said.
Additional reporting Teeranai Charuvastra.