Tourist Areas To Get Additional Vaccine Shots – Songkran Festival Update

Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome

According to Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome, additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be sourced for provinces that are tourist destinations to boost confidence and the local economies there.

On Tuesday, Mr Kunplome said the Culture Ministry and the Tourism and Sports Ministry have agreed to ask the government to provide these provinces with more doses of COVID-19 vaccines if they are designated tourism zones. They include Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Pattaya, and Phuket.

Tourist spots that have received the first batches of Sinovac vaccines this month are Koh Samui in Surat Thani which has received 2,500 doses; Pattaya in Chon Buri (4,700 doses); Chiang Mai (3,500 doses); and Phuket (4,000 doses).

The second batches will be distributed in June, with Samui to receive 16,000 doses; Pattaya (50,000 doses); Chiang Mai (32,000); and Phuket (16,000).

The third batches will be rolled out in September, with Samui to receive 16,000 doses; Pattaya (48,000 doses); Chiang Mai (48,000); and Phuket (48,000).

Mr Kunplome spoke on Tuesday after meeting with representatives from concerned agencies to discuss easing COVID-19 measures for the Songkran festival next month.

Mr Kunplome insisted that water splashing will probably be allowed during the Songkran festival next month.

“It should get the green light because the daily number of new COVID-19 cases has dropped from three digits to only two digits,” the minister said.

The Culture Ministry and the Tourism and Sports Ministry would present detailed measures for the Songkran festival to a sub-committee of the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) tomorrow, he said.

This year’s Songkran would focus on the cultural aspects of the festival such as merit-making, sprinkling water on Buddha statues, pouring water onto the elderly’s palms and asking for their blessings, Mr Kunplome said.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry has worked together with the private sector to come up with activities to attract tourists and generate income during Songkran while health measures will still be enforced, he said.

Asked by reporters if foam parties that involve crowded gatherings would be allowed during Songkran, Mr Kunplome said that the two ministries had agreed that participants should wear protective gear such as glasses, masks and raincoats to prevent close contact with one another.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry will ask the Disease Control Department to consider the zoning for water splashing activities during Songkran as in pre-COVID times, Mr Kunplome said.

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Asked if people travelling around on pickup trucks would be allowed to splash water on roads, Mr Kunplome said that such activities are not traditional ones during Songkran but they happened when people travel to their home provinces.

“Celebration activities will be considered. For now, water splashing on trucks is not prohibited,” Mr Kunplome said.

Officials were focusing more on ways to limit the number of participants in Songkran events.

“We are paying more attention to the number of people at event venues. We will find a balance between helping the economy and the prevention of new clusters of COVID-19 which would spread the disease in communities,” the culture minister said.

People would be advised to observe social distancing when giving traditional greetings to elderly people during the Thai New Year. Event organisers would also be asked to ensure social distancing. Chairs could be arranged for participants, Mr Kunplome said.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday said that he had instructed the CCSA’s sub-committee to discuss guidelines for Songkran celebrations with relevant agencies before submitting them to the cabinet next week.

“The situation has now improved. With the collaboration of everyone, the Songkran events can be held. But what type of events will be held and how will have to be discussed to ensure they will not affect disease control measures. They may be less fun but still safe,” Gen Chan-o-cha said.

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