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Bangkok’s Dodgy Nightlife Scene Sees Shutdowns After Fueling Covid-19 Outbreak

Inside the Sukhumvit Soi 7 beer bar complex, where only the Moonshine Pub has a restaurant license. How do the other bars operate? Sorry, dumb question. (Photo: Twitter)
Inside the Sukhumvit Soi 7 beer bar complex, where only the Moonshine Pub has a restaurant license. How do the other bars operate? Sorry, dumb question. (Photo: Twitter)

As in Pattaya and elsewhere, Bangkok’s nightlife scene – driven by bars operating as “restaurants’ or through bribes to corrupt police – are driving a new surge in coronavirus cases.

Famed Khaosan Road was closed for three days after ten people who visited the area over New Year’s tested positive for Covid-19.

The Khao San Road Entrepreneurs Association announced the closure Tuesday, saying the infected party people were linked to a cluster stemming from the Brick Bar on Khaosan. All bar staff were tested and found to be free of Covid-19.

Also shut for three days through Thursday is the popular beer bar complex on Sukhumvit Soi 7 after someone testing positive for Covid-19 listed the recently expanded cluster of girly bars as one place he visited.

Rumors have swirled long and hard around the Soi 7 bars – only one of which has a bonified restaurant license – with claims that the sex workers employed there are responsible for dozens of Covid-19 cases.

Another Sukhumvit naughty bar area, Soi Cowboy, closed as well Tuesday night for a “big cleaning” driven by positive Covid-19 tests. Thonglor police over the New Year’s holiday imposed required 120-baht antigen testing at both ends of the nightlife strip for both employees and visitors.

While Bangkok’s official tally of coronavirus cases has not surged, the number of unreported cases, found through home testing, has. And clusters tied to the nightlife sector have given conservative government health officials plenty of ammunition to fight the planned legal reopening of bars and nightspots Jan. 16.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Tuesday that the emergence of many Covid-19 clusters was clearly linked to gatherings at pubs and restaurants that provided alcoholic beverages.

He criticized the “lack of conscience” that has put the country at risk of a new wave of infections, saying he has requested the local communicable diseases committee to pursue legal action against businesses that have breached public health regulations.

Coronavirus cases are now so prevalent in Bangkok’s expat bar, er, “restaurant”, areas that the management of Champs Bar on Sukhumvit Soi 6 took the precautionary step of closing for a week “for the health and safety of both our staff and customers”.

Khao San association President Sanga Ruangwatthanakul said businesses have been told to stop using suspect antigen test kits and switch to RT-PCR testing and to disinfect their venues before reopening the road on Jan. 6.

After that, They should conduct more antigetn tests on employees and only allow 50% capacity seating in indoor areas and 75 percent for outdoor venues.

He added that screening checkpoints will remain at the entrance and exit when the street reopens on Friday. People who have not been vaccinated or have only had the first jab must present a negative antigen test result before entering the area.