Undeterred by Virus, Phuket To Go Ahead With Annual ‘Je’ Festival

Worshippers of Je Festival pierce their cheeks with blades during a ritual parade on Phuket island, Oct. 13, 2018.

BANGKOK (Xinhua) — Thailand’s famous resort island of Phuket announced on Thursday that it will hold the annual vegetarian festival while observing strict social distancing measures amidst the ongoing pandemic.

The 2020 Phuket Vegetarian Festival (aka Nine Emperor Gods Festival) will take place from Oct. 17 to 25, said Phuket governor Narong Woonciew.

The governor warned that patrons who refuse to social distancing and wear face masks will be removed from the festivities site.

Thousands of celebrants converge on Phuket each year for the colorful event, one of the most popular vegetarian festivals in the country.

Worshippers of Je Festival pierce their cheeks with blades during a ritual parade on Phuket island, Oct. 13, 2018.

“We have been reeling from economic pain in Phuket as most of the island’s income come from foreign tourists,” said Narong, “so anything that helps reboot the local Phuket economy, we will support. For example this coming vegetarian festival.”

The 2020 Phuket Vegetarian Festival will be the first public event launched since the pandemic began.

Thai capital city Bangkok logged the highest number of COVID-19 cases during its peak, with Phuket the second hardest hit.

To date, cumulative infections in Thailand stand at 3,516 and the death toll remains at 59.