Fear of Virus Taints Songkran Festival

6 Apr 2021

Renowned virologist Yong Poovorawan, one of the country's most authoritative voices on Covid-19 transmission, has warned that a third or even fourth wave of Covid-19 could emerge as a result of the government's policy to encourage people to enjoy and spend more during the upcoming Songkran festival.

"After the Songkran festival, prepared daily infection rates to hundreds per day after the Songkran festival," Dr Yong said.

"We've become too complacent, which means we'll need to waste a lot of financial resources for testing, monitoring, and curing the disease."

Dr Yong, wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday in response to reports of infections in pubs in the Thong Lor area last week. Last year, a cluster of infections occurred in Thong Lor, a district in Bangkok's Sukhumvit area.

Dr Yong said the relaxed measures in entertainment areas are the main factor when quick transmission occurs.

Despite the availability of vaccines, Dr Yong warned that vaccination rates in Thailand and elsewhere could not keep up with infections and that it would take another two years to immunize 70% of the world's population.

Covid-19 infections reopened in the capital on Sunday, with health authorities reporting that cases linked to the entertainment cluster had risen to 71, according to Department of Disease Control (DDC) director-general Opas Karnkawinpong.

Dr Opas said the cases linked to the entertainment cluster rose to 71 and are scattered in Bangkok (45), Pathum Thani (11), Nonthaburi (8), and Nakhon Pathom (7).

There was even a rumour that was unsubstantiated. Supattanapong Punmeechaow, the Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister was infected after visiting one of the Thong Lor venues on March 25 and attending a cabinet meeting a few days later.

Mr Supattanapong's team denied that he had put anybody at risk. According to Dr Opas, the minister has already taken a Covid-19 test at a state hospital in Udon Thani province and plans to get vaccinated soon.

After two of its doctors tested positive for Covid-19 in Khon Kaen province, Srinagarind Hospital announced it would suspend treating new patients and postpone operations for uninfected people.

All hospital staff and patients who had close contact with the infected doctors between March 22 and April 2 had been told to report for testing and quarantine, Dr Pongsak Kiatchusakul said.

Last Friday, it was confirmed that the first doctor has contracted the virus. Before meeting with colleagues and patients, he went to a restaurant and shopped at a department store.

On March 26, the second doctor is said to have come in contact with an infected person while attending a concert at Magenta, a restaurant in Khon Kaen's Hugz Mall.

Meanwhile, Violette Wautier, a Thai singer who performed at the Magenta restaurant, posted the negative result of her own Covid-19 test on Instagram on Sunday.

Despite the new Covid-19 cases, Khon Kaen deputy governor Jaruek Laoprasert said the Songkran festival would go on as planned.

The temporary ban was imposed after the virus was reported to have infected 112 officials and inmates at Narathiwat Prison.