Thailand has postponed the nationwide Songkran Festival that marks the Thai Buddhist New Year and will shut schools and entertainment venues, 21 March, in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the government confirmed Tuesday.
Earlier on Monday, a government spokesperson identified measures such as closing schools, restaurants, bars, movie theatres, entertainment centre and boxing stadiums. Following the approval of the measures, the government said the closure of entertainment venues and schools was effective 21 March and would continue to the end of the month. The closures are restricted to Bangkok and adjacent provinces.
The annual Thai New Year holiday, known as Songkran, was due to be held 13 to 15 April nationwide. Neighbouring Laos has also cancelled the water festival that marks the Buddhist New Year celebrations.
Closure of entertainment, restaurants, bars and sports venues elsewhere in the country would be at the discretion of each provincial governor.
However, Buriram province in northeast Thailand is conducting screening checks on highways on the province’s border. Inaccurately called a lock-down, travellers can still enter Buriram by land if they pass the roadside temperature check.
But other provinces are likely to follow suit or introduce even stricter controls on travellers in the coming days as residents clamour for action. Prominent doctors recommended in TV interviews on Tuesday that a lock-down for 21 days nation was the best option to counter the Covid-19 outbreak.
Meanwhile, neighbouring Myanmar has announced additional quarantine measures for international travellers and Myanmar citizens.
Anyone with a travel history that shows they visited Korea, China, Italy, Iran, France, Spain, Germany and the USA in the last 14 days will face mandatory quarantine.
No cases of COVID-19 has been reported so far by the authorities, but they are taking no chances.
The Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok urged migrant workers in Thailand not to return home for the weeklong Thingyan festival in April to avoid the risk of spreading the virus.
According to the Irrawaddy news channel, an estimated 4 million migrants from Myanmar work in Thailand.
Several hundred thousand migrants return to Myanmar each April during Thailand’s parallel Songkran new year festival.
To contain the spread of Covid-19, the Thai government has abolished its free re-entry permits for Thingyan, the embassy said.
Returning workers will have to pay THB1,000 baht (44,000 kyats) for a re-entry permit.
Thailand’s Ministry of Industry also said migrant workers who returned home must report to their employers when they come back to Thailand and they will be subject to 14 days of quarantine at their own cost.