Update: Citing threats from the coronavirus, the Bangkok Metropolitan Bureau on Thursday afternoon said it will not host any events or fairs to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
BANGKOK — Inquisition about your weight, work, and romantic relationship from your Chinese relatives in exchange for red envelopes may have to be held virtually for this year’s Lunar Festival.
The government’s pandemic center on Thursday asked members of the public to consider dropping the tradition of traveling and family reunions for the Chinese New Year holidays in favor of social distancing in order to curb the coronavirus outbreak.
“You can meet each other, but please still wear masks. If you live far from each other, you can just video call instead of travelling,” pandemic center spokesman Taweesin Visanuyothin said at the news conference.
“Although we don’t have to have a lockdown like China did last year, we still need your cooperation,” Taweesin said.
He urged shoppers to wear masks and wash hands frequently when going out to buy food for the holiday. People are also advised to set up video calls instead of meeting up with family members if possible, and give out money via online transfer instead of physical red envelopes, or ang bao.
“Ang bao is very important. Don’t use cash or envelopes so you don’t have to have physical contact,” Taweesin said. “Transfer money online. This will be a lovely image that goes with the times.”
The advice seems to defeat the purpose of designating the Chinese New Year as a government holiday for the first time this year. The government justified the new holiday as an incentive to encourage domestic tourism and spending.
“The government’s measure of special holidays and regional holidays is to boost tourism and the economy,” government spokeswoman Trisulee Trisoranakul said on Dec. 29. “We’ve seen that during long holidays, people travel and spend, boosting the country’s economy.”
To underscore their point of celebrating the Chinese New Year in an extraordinary year, the authorities on Thursday also launched a slogan that goes, “This Chinese New Year, agong and ama want their children and grandchildren to have filial piety by protecting against COVID.”
Agong and ama are grandfather and grandmother in Teochew dialect, the common tongue of many Thais with Chinese descent.
Thursday saw new 809 COVID-19 cases logged, 789 of them found in Samut Sakhon, the epicenter of the second wave of the pandemic. A majority of the infections were discovered in active case-finding operations.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said the leading photo was taken in Samut Prakan province. In fact, it was Nakhon Sawan.