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The Situation in Chiang Mai – Smoke and COVID-19

COVID-19 Situation

Wherever you are in the world you cannot have escaped the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For those of you not in Thailand here is a brief update on the situation in Chiang Mai.

Di CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM - This media comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #23312.Note: Not all PHIL images are public domain; be sure to check copyright status and credit authors and content providers., Pubblico dominio,

From today, Thursday 26th March Thailand has declared a state of emergency to be in force until April 30. This gives the government strong powers to control the situation, in addition to steps already taken. Measures include setting up checkpoints to control movement around the country and potentially a curfew, though this has not been implemented yet. The government is strongly advising people to stay in their homes.

Thailand blocks entry for foreigners

Thailand had already made it more difficult for foreigners to enter the country by requiring a medical certificate stating the visitor was not infected, and medical insurance covering treatment for Covid-19. Visa Exempt and Visa on Arrival entries were also revoked for a number of nationalities. However, with the implementation of the state of Emergency, all foreigners are now banned from entering the Kingdom of Thailand via all entry points. Exemptions only for Diplomats, work permit holders and some groups of transport workers. Thai embassies and consulates outside Thailand have stopped issuing most types of visas until further notice. (for full details of requirements for travel and entry by air see this IATA page).

Whilst this article is primarily intended to inform people outside of Thailand about the situation, it should be noted that it is also very difficult to leave Thailand now with land borders closed and most flights cancelled. Those already in Thailand wishing to leave are no doubt aware of the situation and it is recommended they contact their airline or country’s Embassy/Consulate for more information. For people here who’s permitted duration of stay will expire soon extraordinary solutions to extend visa’s and entry stamps are being put in place by Thai immigration. Supporting paperwork is required and you should contact the consular services at your embassy. Do not be tempted to ignore the situation and overstay your permitted period in Thailand.

Closure of bars and Entertainment venues

It was already announced on March 18 that all bars and entertainment venues would be closed with immediate effect. This includes massage parlours and spas, fitness centres, gyms, games shops, internet cafes, theatres, cinemas, walking streets and sporting venues. Restaurants were permitted to remain open for take out and delivery services.

Chiang Mai Gay Bars - Closed for COVID-19 Banner
All Chiang Mai’s Gay Businesses are closed until 13 April or longer.

With the state of emergency these measures have been extended to shopping malls and all non essential businesses. People are being asked not to travel and remain at home and all public gatherings are banned. The business still allowed to operate include banks, take away food vendors and restaurants for take out and delivery services only,
supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitals and clinics. Delivery services and online business are to remain operational.

Pern's Restaurant
Pern’s Restaurant – An early casualty of the Corona Virus

It goes without saying that all of Chiang mai’s gay businesses and venues are therefore closed until further notice. The original closure order was until 13 April but this may well be extended under the state of emergency. Unfortunately, after an appalling high season, some may not re-open. Ex-pat favourite restaurant and gossip shop, Pern’s Restaurant on Huay Kaew Rd has already announced permanent closure.

An early start to burning season, and a drop in tourists in January and February, has had a bad effect on Chiang Mai’s tourism industry. Whilst the high value of the Thai Baht has kept westerners away, the virus has lead to almost know Chinese tourists since late January. Some areas of Chiang Mai had become totally dependent on the Chinese and are suffering greatly.

COVID-19 in Chiang Mai

According to Chiang Mai Citylife there are now 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Chiang Mai with two more being added just yesterday.

The situation in Chiang Mai is changing daily with new restrictions being brought in all the time. The above is an overview at a snapshot in time and may have changed. Please refer to other regularly updated news sites if the situation effects you and do not make any decisions based solely on what you read here. At the same time be careful about fake news. Suggested sources of information in English:

Thai Government Website (Select English Language)
Bangkok Post
Citylife Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai News Page on
Facebook – Chiang Mai News in English (Group)

Note: On those sites where people can comment you may need to consider the veracity of some statements made in the discussions. Note spreading false news is also banned and punishable under the emergency decree.

Smoke and Air Pollution

As if the virus problems were not enough, Northern Thailand has experienced a bad and longer burning season this year starting way back in December. The various factors have conspired to make Chiang mai a virtual no go area for tourists and in the last week the mountains around Chiang Mai have experienced large forest fires with PM 2.5 levels in the city rising to several hundred, meaning extremely unhealthy. For more about the burning season in Chiang Mai read this article.

Songkran 2020

Songkran in Chiang Mai
Songkran in Chiang Mai – Pickup Wars

Songkran, Thailand’s New Year water festival in mid-april has always been popular with gay visitors to Chiang Mai. Apart from the fact it will likely be impossible to travel here, Songkran has been officially cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation so there is no point in trying to get here. It seems earlier plans just to postpone Songkran may have been shelved.

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