Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Tuesday that travellers from Bangkok and other at-risk areas heading to their home provinces during Songkran will not have to go into quarantine.
Mr Charnvirakul made his comments after the Public Health Ministry announced tougher restrictions on eateries and entertainment venues in Bangkok and surrounding provinces ahead of the Songkran holiday next week after new clusters of infections were detected in night entertainment venues in Bangkok.
In light of this, a meeting of the Emergency Operation Centre agreed that Bangkok, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan and Nakhon Pathom will be designated as red zones under maximum control.
“Although provinces had been divided into zones, designated by colours according to the infection rates, none will be locked down. People can still travel to other provinces without having to go into quarantine on arrival at their destination.”
“Only people who have been infected with the virus, or are considered to be at high risk, will be quarantined,” Mr Charnvirakul said.
As for concerns that travellers from provinces designated as red zones could spark worries on arriving in other provinces, Mr Charnvirakul said that in the true tradition of Songkran people go home primarily to seek blessings from respected elders.
They should not head home just to look for fun, go around drinking and visit crowded places, he said.
The public health minister asked that people remain alert and careful, and not be too fun-loving. It was obvious the latest cluster of infections had emerged because of groups of people visiting entertainment venues, he said.
However, the public health office in Buri Ram on Tuesday announced that travellers from red zone provinces – Bangkok, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, and Nakhon Pathom – will have to be quarantined for 14 days.
But if they ask for a rapid COVID-19 test and the results come back negative, they will not have to undergo quarantine. The test costs 600 baht.
Department of Disease Control (DDC) director-general Opas Karnkawinpong said that the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has eased restrictions on inter-provincial travel during Songkran and allowed people to hold traditional Songkran celebrations such as merit-making, sprinkling water on Buddha statues, pouring water onto the elderly’s palms and asking for their blessings.
However, due to the new surge of infections, such activities must follow strict disease control measures with the number of participants limited to one square metre per one visitor. Activities must be held in the open air or spacious, well-ventilated areas. No water splashing, powder-smearing or foam parties will be allowed, Dr Karnkawinpong said.
People who queue up for a water-pouring ceremony must stay at least one metre apart from each other and wear masks while avoiding eating or drinking together for long periods, he said.
Meanwhile, Thaniwan Kulmongkol, president of the Thai Restaurant Association, on Tuesday voiced opposition to the Public Health Ministry’s proposal to bring forward closing hours for eateries and restaurant from 11 pm to 9 pm, saying it was not fair on businesses.
She said the association has sent a letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to ask him to review the proposal, which has negatively affected operators.
The scare about the new clusters had prompted customers to cancel their reservations and the deposits they had put down for reservations would have to be returned to them, Ms Kulmongkol said.
Thanakorn Kuptajit, secretary-general of the Thai Alcohol Beverage Business Association, said the closure of entertainment venues in three Bangkok districts of Klong Toey, Watthana and Bang Khae will deal a blow to operators because they have already stocked up on fresh food supplies and hired musicians.