New Corona regulations, Pattaya and Papa Doc

Haiti’s Papa Doc suggested voodoo as a solution.

The slackening of some business restrictions, announced by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration on May 15, isn’t quite what most Pattaya business owners and residents were hoping for.

It is certainly helpful to see shopping malls allowed to start their business, howbeit with restricted hours, whilst the reopening of public and private swimming pools for solo exercise was both unexpected and to be welcomed. It appears that, for once, public pressure opposing the closure of swimming pools has had some effect on government policy.

A lot of detail has yet to be clarified. Apparently, use of fitness centers is now alright but you must exercise alone and not use a machine. Non-contact sports look to be possible but there must not be more than three people in a team for badminton, table tennis etc., and nobody must be present to cheer them on.

The reduced hours of the curfew from 10.00 pm – 4.00 am to 11 pm – 4.00 am are not likely to affect most foreigners here and have presumably been introduced to allow transport of goods by road until later in the evening.

But many of the other rule liberalizations had already begun here. In fact, barber shops never closed in Pattaya although only hair cutting has been allowed. Nor has there been a shortage of laundromats or repair workshops for vehicles. Few knew they were even theoretically banned until now.

What people were hoping to see was a relaxing of the rule that restaurants cannot serve alcohol. Many owners say that there is too small a profit margin on food only for sit-down customers. However, the ban remains in force. Another disappointment is that all massage parlors are to remain closed even though the majority are health centers rather than dens of iniquity.

Bars, night clubs, theatres and venues of mass entertainment also remain closed during the next phase of policy as was predicted. They are unlikely to be removed from the forbidden list until it is clearer that a second wave of infections won’t occur.

So tourist-orientated Pattaya will have to struggle on for the time being. Even domestic tourism to Pattaya will not be great as the beaches remain firmly closed for now to maintain social distancing. The only really safe spot to drink alcohol is in your own home and without a group of like-minded people surrounding you. Basically, the lockdown on entertainment remains in force whilst shopping and sports have become easier.

Is there any alternative? Probably not. Those countries which have collapsed their defences too soon appear to have a problem with renewed Corona infection. But in 1971 the Caribbean island of Haiti was struck by a raging epidemic of the viral diseases known as yellow fever and swamp fever, both of which can be fatal to humans.

The ageing dictator extraordinaire Francois Duvalier, known to history as Papa Doc, issued a proclamation that the best precaution was to attend one of many voodoo ceremonies being conducted by the Tontons Macoute or secret police. As if by magic, the epidemic fizzled out.

But Papa Doc himself failed to survive and was brought to Port au Prince cathedral in a heavily-guarded coffin with an open top. “Is he really dead?” one of the mourners asked Madame Max Adolphe who headed up Tontons. “Nobody knows,” she answered, “We haven’t asked him yet.”

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