How party fever in Bangkok’s decadent nightlife scene spawned Thailand’s 3rd wave
The fun of Thailand’s nightlife has sent new COVID-19 infections soaring over the past few weeks. Since March 22, clubgoers and staff have spread the highly contagious UK variant to more than 500 people across the country.
In response, the government announced the closure of all entertainment venues in 41 provinces.
As Thais pray that the cluster does not unleash an uncontrollable third wave of COVID-19, critics are complaining loudly that Thailand has failed to learn a lesson.
Pubs and bars have been the source of several outbreaks before, but efforts to prevent transmission of the virus have apparently been lacking.
Nightlife’s role in the first wave
In March last year, a group of pubgoers tested positive for COVID-19 after they shared drinks and cigarettes at a pub in Bangkok’s Thong Lor area. The Public Health Ministry responded by warning people to obey COVID-19 control measures in order to prevent a fresh virus wave from engulfing the country.
Thong Lor’s nightlife scene is the playground of choice for Bangkok’s wealthy residents. Home to dozens of glitzy bars and clubs, the area is thronged by thousands of well-heeled residents each night.
However, last year’s first wave of COVID-19 silenced the party scene in Thong Lor and across the nation, as the government closed night-time venues for months.
By the time they reopened in July, Thailand’s COVID-19 suppression ranked among the best in the world. As a result, not a single local infection was detected for months following the shutdown.
People who visited seven bars and pubs in Bangkok in March have been told to urgently seek coronavirus tests after a new cluster of infections was identified. As a result, all coronavirus test outlets at both public and private hospitals have seen an influx of people worried that they too might have contracted the virus.
Pub hoppers’ role in the second wave
Thailand’s second wave of COVID-19 emerged in December, supposedly among migrant workers.
However, pub-hoppers played a significant role in spreading the virus. An unnamed woman visited several bars in the North before testing positive for COVID-19 in early January. Alerted by her timeline, customers of one of the bars she visited, Warmupcafe Chiangmai, got tests and discovered they had also contracted the disease.
Another infection cluster was spawned at the birthday party of Techin “DJ Matoom” Ploypetch, held overnight at a Bangkok luxury hotel in early January. Techin has since recovered from COVID-19 but is facing a law case for breaking virus-control restrictions.
Despite public condemnation and a legal penalty for Techin, Bangkok’s party animals crowded back into entertainment venues as soon as they reopened on February 23.
(Elite) clubgoers triggering the third wave?
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the third wave of COVID-19 has now been traced to a cluster of infections that spread through nightspots. The alarm was raised after a 35-year-old man who tested positive reported he had hung out at a bar in Thong Lor last month.
The list of Thong Lor entertainment venues linked with the outbreak quickly expanded.
Among them is Krystal Club Thonglor25, which is now firmly in the national spotlight.
Former MP and massage-parlour tycoon Chuvit Kamolvisit has dubbed Krystal Club “Club Thai Ku Fah” (Club Government House) for reportedly hosting certain high-powered politicians.
Krystal Club made headlines after Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob tested positive for COVID-19, sparking widespread rumours he contracted the disease during a night out in Thong Lor. The minister has suggested he caught the virus from his secretary.
For some reason, many people have this mentality, that they will not get infected with the virus that has been rampaging around the world since early 2020. Elites attend exclusive dinner parties, party-goers go clubbing night after night and many social events have seen attendees standing shoulder-to-shoulder…. all without face masks.
Ever since Saksayam’s infection was confirmed on Wednesday, the hashtag #Thonglorpub has been trending in social media.
Along with Krystal Club Thonglor25, Bar Bar Bar, Ekamai Beer House, Emerald Thonglor13, Dirty Bar, Bottoms up Thonglor, AINU Hokkaido lzakaya & Bar, the Cassette Music Bar Ekamai, and 63 Music House Ekamai all served customers who later tested positive for coronavirus. People who visited any of the bars in the past few weeks have been urged to get COVID-19 tests now.
As well as alcohol and music, some of these places lure wealthy customers by employing attractive, scantily clad staff. Krystal Club Thonglor25 reportedly pays each of its female entertainers thousands of baht per night.
“There is no social distancing at these places. Bribery has blinded all controls and law enforcement,” Chuvit commented.
By Thai PBS World’s General Desk