The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration on Friday dashed hopes of a happy new year for Thailand’s bar and club operators, confirming nightlife entertainment venues will remain closed until Jan. 16.

While holding out hope that the reopening could be moved up “if” the Covid-19 situation improves, no criteria what “improves” means nor any possible earlier date was mentioned at the CCSA briefing this afternoon.

A CCSA advisor, Professor Udom Kachinthorn, said today the coronavirus situation in Thailand has not improved with daily infections fluctuating between 5,000 and 7,000. Improvement, he believes, would be 1,000-2,000 new cases a day.

Foreign Affairs Ministry English-language spokesman Nopakun Natapanu said the CCSA will continue to work closely with the industry to ensure they can “reopen at the earliest opportunity.”

Nightlife business associations and operators across the country had been pressing local, provincial and national government agencies this month after the CCSA said reopening would not come until mid-January.

Earlier, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had told the national on television that nightlife’s rebirth would be “considered” for Dec. 1. Many people foolishly took that as a hard date and accused the government of breaking a promise and “pushing back” a date it had never confirmed.

The decision now not to yield to pressure and move up the reopening date before New Year’s Eve should surprise no one, especially given a new Covid-19 outbreak tied to illegally open bars on Phuket’s Bangla Road.

Masquerading as “restaurants” with an easily obtained restaurant license as a pretense, the beer and hostess bars along the popular nightlife strip have been packed for weeks, with local police happily taking a payoff to turn a blind eye. Until people started falling ill with Covid-19.

Mass testing was performed Nov. 23 and, according to the Phuket News, 10 bars were ordered closed for at least three days. On Thursday, the News reported that 24 customers and bargirls at Bangla bars had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The island’s case count has climbed steadily this week, with 128 new cases reported Friday, up from 110 Thursday and 86 Nov. 22.  Dr Witita Jang-iam, deputy director of Vachira Phuket Hospital, pointed the finger directly at bars for the surge.

Also weighing loudly against reopening bars was blowhard conservative Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who railed Thursday against illegally opened bars in Bangkok. He conveniently failed to point out those bars were open due to illegal bribes to Bangkok’s corrupt police force.

Talking as if his screws were loose again, Anutin used vocabulary that equated bars being opened to “treason” and left reporters contorting themselves to stop laughing when he claimed Prayut has done “everything right” when it comes to managing the pandemic.

His vote – and to be clear, Anutin doesn’t get a vote – would be to keep bars closed. Probably the right-wing zealot would prefer to see them closed and alcohol banned forever.

Against such headwinds, and despite the pontifications of self-interested online pundits – there was nearly zero chance the CCSA would strap on a pair of flip-flops on the Jan. 16 date.

The CCSA said nightlife venue could now “apply” for an as-yet-unspecified certification to reopen next month. Requirements likely will be that all staff is fully vaccinated and health officials still haven’t given up their unworkable pursuit of having all customers also be fully vaxed.

What likely will emerge over the next three weeks is a list of soon-ignored requirements that were put out last June mandating no singing, no dancing and no lady drinks.