Chawetsan Namwat, director of the emergency disease and health hazards control division under the Department of Disease Control, on Saturday (Feb 6) emphasised the importance of strict social distancing during family gatherings.
He advised families to celebrate safely by using video calls to reduce physical contact, especially with the elderly who are among at-risk groups.
“People are advised to wear face masks when talking, or use chat applications with video call features to reduce physical contact,” he said.
Dr Chawetsan also offered assurances about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines to be rolled out this year, but noted the arrival of vaccines did not not mean the pandemic would end.
The public would still have to comply with disease control measures until herd immunity is acquired, he said. He said active case-finding would continue even though the number of COVID-19 cases has begun to drop.
The Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) yesterday reported 237 new coronavirus cases, for an accumulated total of 23,371 since the pandemic began a year ago.
No new deaths were reported, leaving the toll at 79.
CCSA assistant spokeswoman Panprapa Yongtrakul said authorities were stepping up surveillance in the deep South after 3,391 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Malaysia on Saturday.
Ninety-one cases were found in Kedah, 92 in Perak and 58 in Kelantan.
Dr Panprapa said the situation in Tak’s Mae Sot district was also worrying after 11 people from seven families tested positive. They were linked to a 75-year-old infected man.
Tak provincial authorities declared Mae Sot district a maximum control zone following the spike, banning large gatherings of people and requiring those arriving from Mae Sot to quarantine for 14 days.
Meanwhile, Thais in Beijing are expecting muted Chinese New Year celebrations this year with the return of COVID-19 to their homeland weighing heavily on their minds.
Siwattra Sinphasutadol, a 43-year-old China Media Group official, told the Bangkok Post that the number of Thais in Beijing and nearby cities had fallen dramatically recently - down to just 100 or even fewer, she estimated.
“Thai students who returned to Thailand during last year’s Chinese New Year have not come back due to the border restrictions and have had to take online classes instead.
“Many of them didn’t have the chance move their belongings from where they were staying,” she said, adding that even the Royal Thai Embassy’s celebration on Dec 5, which is usually a prominent event for Thais, was also scaled down last year and far fewer Thais attended.
Even for Chinese nationals, the New Year celebrations are expected to be muted this year. No feasts or parties will be held in public. Tourist spots including public parks are selling tickets online and the number of visitors to each venue has been limited.
While Feb 11-17 will be a public holiday in China, the government and companies have been encouraging people to stay at home, including free 20GB of free internet data, she said, adding that virtual tours of the country’s attractions were also being promoted.
Supanitch Kunying, a 37-year-old cook who has lived in China for seven years, said normally Thais would gather with close friends and groups of up to few dozen would cook and enjoy meals together.
Those with Chinese partners would visit their boyfriend or girlfriend’s family and enjoy wonton soup together.
However, everyone she knew was planning to be more cautious this year, despite many of them having been vaccinated already.