Street processions are still permitted this year, but some of the main ceremonies have been banned, it was explained at a meeting at Provincial Hall yesterday (Sept 23).
Phuket Vice Governor Wongsakorn Nunchukan explained that the Phuket government will coordinate with shrine administrators in order to carry on the annual festival in line with the ‘new normal’ protocols.
“This meeting aims to assign officers for taking care of their responsibilities during the festival, such as traffic and safety management by police and emergency services preparing medical staff,” he said.
As part of the ‘new normal’ measures in order to prevent any spread of COVID-19, ceremony attendees must wear face masks at all times and wash their hands with sanitiser as often as possible.
Administrators at participating shrines must ensure that all attendees are checked for elevated body temperatures entering festival and shrine areas, and ensure that people can register as entering the areas through the Thai Chana web platform
They must also control any congestion of crowds and the cleanliness in their areas, it was explained yesterday.
Komart Pankeard, Chief of the Phuket office of the Ministry of Culture, explained that street processions can be held like they are every year, but all people taking part in the processions must wear face masks all the time.
However, the ‘Mah Song’ spirit mediums will not have to wear face masks, he noted.
Although not reconfirmed yesterday, Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Dr Chalermpong Sukontapol, who sits on the Phuket Communicable Disease Committee, told Chinese shrine administrators in July that the ‘Mah Song’ spirit mediums are not permitted to walk the streets this year.
Instead, they may travel in vehicles as part of the procession.
Also banned this year will be many of the ceremonial ablutions of faith and flesh – including fire-walking, bladed-ladder climbing, hot oil bathing and nail-bridge crossing, Dr Chalermpong added.