Additional doses of Covid-19 vaccines will be sought for provinces which are tourist destinations to boost confidence and the local economies there, according to Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome.
Mr Itthiphol said on Tuesday 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 Koh Samui in Surat Thani, Pattaya in Chon Buri, Chiang Mai 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 Itthiphol spoke on Tuesday after meeting with representatives from concerned agencies to discuss easing Covid-19 measures for the Songkran festival next month.
Mr Itthiphol 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 Itthiphol 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 which involve crowded gatherings would be allowed during Songkran, Mr Itthiphol 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 Itthiphol said.
Asked if people travelling around on pickup trucks would be allowed to splash water on roads, Mr Itthiphol 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, it [water splashing on trucks] is not prohibited,” Mr Itthiphol 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 Itthiphol 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 Prayut said.