SAKON NAKHON — Sakon Nakhon became the first province to ban the sale of alcohol in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus, though a trade guild said the move may have the opposite effect.
The order was issued by Governor Witthaya Chanchalong and effective from Tuesday until April 16, just as the province reported 12 confirmed cases of virus infection. Those caught selling alcohol during that time period faces a maximum jail term of one year and a fine of up to 100,000 baht.
The ban was imposed “in order to ensure that people are safe from the spread of communicable disease, coronavirus (COVID-19), Sakon Nakhon province must employ measures to guard, protect and control,” according to the order.
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Bangkok and other major cities also ordered bars, nightclubs, and restaurants to shut down or cease dine-in services during the outbreak.
But the chairman of the Thai Alcoholic Beverage Association criticized the move by Sakon Nakhon province as a “ one dimensional approach” that risks spreading the virus further.
“Those who drink will want to drink. The question is, can you really stop them from drinking,” Thanakorn Kuptajit said on the phone Tuesday.
Thanakorn said he is aware that there was a recent case where a group of people breaching social distancing measures and gathering to drink on a beach in Chonburi province, and he supports a crackdown on such violations. But he said a blanket ban on alcohol sale is too far.
The trade association president said drinkers could end up traveling to another province to buy alcohol and therefore putting more people at risk, which defeats the purpose of social distancing and stay-at-home policies.
He also warned that some people may choose to make or buy illegal moonshine to avoid the ban, putting themselves and others at risk of alcohol poisoning.
Although Sakon Nakhon is the only province to go dry amid the pandemic so far, Thanakorn said the local health office in Phitsanulok sent lettering asking sellers to “cooperate” by not selling booze as well.