All Songkran festivities in Thailand's capital city have been canceled as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks. Similar restrictions are expected to be imposed nationwide from Friday.
Bangkok has shut the holiday down to prevent more cases. There has been a rise of virus infection clusters around the country. Many of these have been linked to entertainment venues, nightclubs and bars.
Health officials suspect the outbreak is the faster-spreading UK. To combat the spread health officials are implementing what they call "target therapy." At least 405 new cases were reported Thursday.
Bangkok Deputy Gov. Kriangyos Sudlabha announced the closure of all entertainment venues at the nightlife area of Khaosan Road before Songkran from April 7 to April 12. Free testing will be provided.
Songkran is known for the splashing of water on one another to celebrate the Thailand New Year. Songkran is Thailand's biggest national holiday.
"During the Songkran festival, we advise people to perform the ceremony...at home and avoid going out to crowded areas. If you have to travel, make sure to wear a face mask at all times, maintain at least a one-meter distance from others and wash your hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol hand sanitizer."
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to order all nightlife venues across the country closed for two weeks from Friday.
Already bars and nightlife venues in Phuket have been closed for the next 10 days while three venues on the island where the virus has been reported are closed for at least 14 days.
Chulalongkorn University's Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology Director Prof Yong Poovorawan said it was the first time that local infections involving the UK variant had been found in Thailand.
He said the UK variant spread 1.7 times faster than the normal strain while the viral load in the patient was far higher. He warned against unnecessary travel during Songkran when he estimated the number of new infections could skyrocket.
"Infected patients from new hot spots are mostly young pub goers, therefore their symptoms will be minimal or hard to detect, making it difficult to control the outbreak while those infected could unknowingly spread the virus to others," Yong said
"Compared with April last year, the number of infected persons this April has jumped from dozens to hundreds per day," Yong said. "This is because last year people took preventive measures whereas nowadays most people ignore these measures," he said.
Experts are puzzled at how the variant evaded the country's strict border controls and quarantine system which has helped keep overall cases to 30,310 and deaths at 95.
The country's COVID taskforce said a change in the quarantine period introduced this month, which reduces it to seven or 10 days, instead of the mandatory 14 days, may be reconsidered.
Thailand plans to start its mass immunization campaign in June but has been vaccinating health workers or people deemed vulnerable, with more than 300,000 recipients so far.