The tumultuous water battles and endless festivals have disappeared this year from the celebration of the Buddhist New Year in Thailand, which begins this Monday under measures implemented by the authorities to curb the expansion of COVID-19.
While in previous years the great avenues and tourist places of Bangkok, such as the backpacker neighborhood of Khao San, were transformed into the scene of a war without quarter with hoses, buckets or with sophisticated water pistols, this conference the city registered normality of a working day, although with less traffic than usual.
The groups of people who traditionally wear flowery shirts and crowded into corners or shops prepared to stall the passerby have disappeared and in their place a few brave men defy high temperatures and without forgetting to put on masks.
In mid-March, the Thai government announced an indefinite suspension of the holidays scheduled for April 13-15, and all acts of celebration of the “Songkran”.
At that time the confirmed cases of the new coronavirus did not reach 150, and they were reduced to Bangkok and some tourist city.
To date, the health authorities have detected infected by COVID-19 in almost all the 77 provinces of the country and the numbers are 2,579 infected, with 40 deaths.
MONKS WITH MASK
At Thatthong Temple, in the Ekkamai business district, few are the parishioners who come today to make offerings and receive the prayers of a monk, who this time wears a surgical mask and glasses for his own protection.
Before prostrating themselves on the ground in front of the bonzo and at a marked distance of safety, believers are measured for temperature and sprayed with disinfecting alcohol on their hands.
“This year is atypical,” an assistant to the religious tells Efe after thoroughly cleaning the bowl where the donations are placed.
Another tradition on this date that the authorities have asked to avoid is family gatherings where young people come to receive the blessing of the elderly, especially the elderly, the risk group most affected by the virus.
Last Thursday, the mayor of the Bangkok metropolitan area, Aswin Kwanmuang, also announced the order to ban the sale of alcohol for ten days, a measure that was replicated by all provinces.
This temporary dry law aims to stop friend gatherings and clandestine parties during the dictated period, given that several of the infected have been linked to outbreaks in bars and clubs.
NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES ALSO CANCEL COMMEMORATION
The exceptional measure to cancel the Buddhist New Year celebration was also replicated by Burma, Laos and Cambodia, countries where water wars are also massive.
In Yangon, the main Burmese city and former capital, the hustle and bustle of the “Thingyan” celebrations has been changed by silence as a result of the confinement dictated from the 10th and until next Sunday in the city.
Burma, an impoverished country with poor health facilities, confirmed its first case on March 27, being one of the last countries in Asia to detect the virus within its borders.
Since then, and with a low number of tests carried out, the new coronavirus infections have increased to 41 cases, including 4 deaths.
Another country with just over 1,100 tests carried out among its entire population is Laos, where there are at least 19 people with COVID-19.
Laotian authorities have asked the population to stay home as long as possible during the current New Year, and to avoid traveling and visiting family members.
Although they allow small home celebrations and limit the number of attendees to the ceremonies to bless the Buddha sculptures in the temples.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was slow to act during the outbreak of the epidemic, shook his arm last Tuesday and announced the cancellation of the Khmer New Year.
The Cambodian president urged all people to go to their jobs and promised to grant 5 days of vacation when the pandemic ends, which affects 122 people in the country.