BANGKOK (Reuters) - People queued to buy wine, beer and spirits in Bangkok on Thursday after the Thai capital announced a 10-day ban on alcohol sales to try to limit social activities before the traditional new year and curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“The announcement prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages at all shops … from April 10 to April 20,” Bangkok Metropolitan Administration spokesman Pongsakorn Kwanmuang told a news conference.
At supermarkets in downtown Bangkok, shoppers wearing facial masks crowded in to the alcohol section.
“I don’t know how long the ban will take, so I bought a lot just in case it extended,” said 39-year-old Tanawat Ruenbanterng, who bought 30 bottles of beer.
At Thai New Year, or Songkran, there are usually big water fights and people travel to visit their parents. Celebrations, often involving alcohol, have been scaled back to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Thailand has confirmed 2,423 coronavirus cases, with 32 fatalities. More than half the cases have been in Bangkok, where a mobile testing system is being rolled out.
“The culture ministry has asked to stop all Songkran activities, traveling back to hometowns and pouring water for blessings with older family members,” said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, spokesman for the government’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration.
“Pay respect to elders from one to two meters … remember older people have the highest risk of dying,” he said.
The culture ministry also recommended calling home or using online methods to pay respects.
Last week, the government imposed a nationwide curfew between 10 p.m – 4 a.m.
The number of confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus have exceeded 1.47 million globally and the death toll crossed 87,700, according to a Reuters tally as of 0200 GMT.
Reporting by Jiraporn Kuhakan, Chayut Setboonsarng, Panarat Thepgumpanat and Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Timothy Heritage