More than 100,000 Thais began their exodus out of Bangkok for the holiday weekend amid fears that, despite bus-capacity limits, the travel period could spark a resurgence of the coronavirus.
Social-distancing measures made for even more crowded conditions at the capital’s bus terminals as seats were blocked off forcing people to stand, often in close proximity. And, unless their tickets were preboked, people waited longer as buses couldn’t be filled to capacity due to the same disease-control measures.
The Transport Co. said 40,000 people had purchased tickets in advance with buses to the South 91 percent sold out. On northern routes 65 percent of seats were pre-sold and 61 percent to the Northeast.
Transport Co. said it planned to run 5,163 trips from North Bangkok’s Mo Chit 2 bus terminal, including 1,700 extra runs and 200 charter buses. Between now and Tuesday, 100,000 people would be taking the bus.
The situation wasn’t any better on the highways leading out of the city. An unfortunately timed major rainstorm hit at rush hour, compounding an already bad traffic situation.
Tolls were waved on major highways, prompting more people to leave for the long weekend, the Transport Ministry said.
The holiday exodus was the first chance for many people to get out of Bangkok or see family since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Songkran in April is usually the time urbanites head back to the provinces to relax with family.
While the extra day – Tuesday – was designed as a holiday by the government, it was not a replacement day for Songkran. The first of those three days will come at the end of July making yet another four-day weekend.
Public-health officials worried aloud Friday about the potential for the coronavirus – vanquished outside of state quarantine facilies for the past 39 days – could resurge in the weeks after the Buddhist holidays.
The government’s coronavirus task forced warned people to remain vigilant with health precautions and social distancing or else the government would have to shut businesses down again if the virus reappears.