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Thailand celebrates Buddhist New Year marred by big Covid-19 outbreak

Bangkok, Apr 13 (EFE).- Thailand was celebrating its Buddhist New Year on Tuesday amid the strongest outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has limited festivities while authorities set up field hospitals to house those infected.

The country, which until now had kept the spread of the virus under control, registered 965 new cases Tuesday, one of the highest figures since the pandemic began.

Songkran festivities, as the occasion that runs until Apr. 15 is known in Thailand, has been restricted to religious rites and authorities have asked citizens to avoid the traditional water splashing battles, as happened last year.

Since the end of last week, bars and nightlife establishments in most of the country, including Bangkok, have been closed by order of the central government.

Although no prohibitions have been imposed on internal travel during the most important holidays of the Thai calendar, some regional governors have established measures, such as quarantines or the need for a negative test, to enter their jurisdictions if traveling from a high-risk area.

The authorities have also established several temporary centers and field hospitals in the capital and other cities to house the infected, which in the worst-case scenario predicted by experts could reach more than 20,000 a day.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Thailand has registered 34,575 cases, including 97 deaths.

Medical experts previously weighed in on the idea that this latest outbreak could have spread among people at various bars in a popular nightlife area in Bangkok.

According to doctors, many patients were infected with the so-called British variant of the virus, which spreads more quickly, and warned the current outbreak could take months to subside.

Thailand began its vaccination campaign Feb. 28 with the jab from Chinese company Sinovac, although the rate of administration is slow because its strategy relies more on the AstraZeneca formula, most of which is produced in the country.

Fewer than 100,000 people among the nearly 70 million inhabitants of the country have already received the second dose of the vaccine.

In addition to Thailand, in other countries such as Cambodia — where there is also a major outbreak of Covid-19 — and Myanmar — immersed in a violent repression by the security forces against the demonstrations in rejection of the coup — this festive occasion is also celebrated.

Thousands of Myanmar citizens wrote on social media during Thingyan, as it is known in the country, their desire for the restoration of democracy following the Feb. 1 military coup; and published a series of messages of peace and hope.

“We will fight for democracy,” “everything will end well” or “we will never give up,” were some of the messages published by opponents of the military, which has repressed the resistance movement with violence and killed at least 710 people nationwide since the coup.

In the aftermath of the coup, testing for the virus has all but stopped, as has the vaccination campaign.

The Buddhist New Year is also celebrated in Laos, Sri Lanka, southern China, and northeast India. EFE


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