Thailand bars Songkran water fights for second year due to COVID-19

Thailand bars Songkran water fights for second year due to COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: People play with water pistols during Songkran Water Festival to celebrate Thai New Yea
FILE PHOTO: People play with water pistols during Songkran Water Festival to celebrate Thai New Year, in Bangkok, Thailand April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo

BANGKOK: Thailand's COVID-19 task force said on Friday (Mar 19) it will ban for a second year the street water fights that usually take place during celebrations for the upcoming Buddhist New Year due to the pandemic.

The Songkran festival takes place from Apr 13 to 15 and in a normal year crowds pack the streets, spraying water guns or flinging water from pick-up trucks in what has been described as the world's biggest water fight.

"Water splashing will not happen this Songkran. We must ask you to cooperate with us," Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for Thailand's COVID-19 taskforce, told a briefing.

He said foam parties would also be banned, though a tradition of pouring water over the hands of older people, religious activities and travel between provinces to visit relatives would be allowed.

READ: With Southeast Asia's highest suicide rate, Thailand grapples with mental health challenge amid pandemic

Thailand has been relatively successful in controlling coronavirus infections, with a new wave of infections in the first two months of the year now levelling off after recording 88 deaths.

But the country's strict border controls have decimated its vital tourism industry, with revenues dropping by more than 80 per cent as visitor numbers plunged from 40 million visitors in 2019 to 6.7 million last year.

A global vaccine rollout has given hope that tourism can be revived and Taweesin gave more details on Friday on a plan to relax strict quarantine rules starting Apr 1.

Mandatory quarantine would be cut from 14 days to 10 days for general arrivals and halved for those who were vaccinated, he said.

Unvaccinated foreigners will still be required to show a negative COVID-19 test result, while Thai citizens will no longer need to do so.

READ: COVID-19: Thailand plans to allow foreign tourists to quarantine in resorts

To qualify for the vaccinated group, all visitors must get a shot within three months of travel and present a certificate as proof.

Taweesin added that those traveling from countries where there are COVID-19 mutations will still need to undergo quarantine for 14 days.

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Source: Reuters/vc

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