The Thailand Government has announced a state of emergency in accordance with the 2005 Executive Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations, in an effort to effectively control the spread of COVID-19. This state of emergency will be in effect from 26 March to 30 April 2020.
Post this announcement, the nation’s COVID-19 Management Center would be upgraded to the COVID-19 Emergency Operation Center. A working committee will be formed and it will hold a meeting at 0930 hours daily. Meanwhile, permanent secretaries of various ministries will be assigned to follow up on the progress of measures to deal with the COVID-19 situation.
Currently, the Government is preparing more places in hospitals, as well as field hospitals, to accommodate COVID-19 patients. Large quarantine areas and more pharmaceuticals will also be acquired.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha urged people not to panic but to follow up on news and information from the Government, adding: “The public must be careful about what they post on social media channels. They must not disseminate fake news and information. Anyone abusing social media will be punished.”
As of 25 March 2020, Thailand has 934 confirmed cases.
What does this emergency mean for employers and the general public?
According to the PM’s statement, the following measures will be put in place as part of the emergency:
- People are prohibited to enter areas and places at risk of COVID-19 infection. Provincial governors and the Bangkok governor are empowered to close the locations where many people gather for various activities.
- Access points to the country by aircraft, boats, cars, or other vehicles will be closed.
- Members of diplomatic corps and international organisations operating in Thailand and their families who need to return to Thailand from overseas will be allowed, but they need to have “fit-to-fly” health certificates. Thai nationals overseas wanting to return to Thailand will also have to follow the same requirement.
- Relevant officials will ensure that there will be no shortages of necessary items and consumer goods and hoarding of consumer products is forbidden.
- Gatherings of many people are also banned.
- Dissemination of fake news and information on COVID-19 through various media channels is forbidden, as it may cause panic among the public.
- Three particular groups of people should stay at home to protect themselves from the possible virus infection outside. These vulnerable groups include people who are older than 70 years, children aged below five years, and people with some diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke and cardiopathy, respiratory problems, and allergy.
In addition, the Prime Minister has urged people not to return to their hometowns now. “If they need to return, they are required to go into home quarantine and to act in accordance with guidelines set by health authorities,” he said in a statement.
He further assured: “I ensure you that there will be no closures of stores that sell necessary or daily needs items.”
According to Section 9 of the 2005 decree, the Prime Minister (and Defense Minister General) Prayut Chan-o-cha shall have the power to issue the following regulations in order to “remedy and promptly resolve an emergency situation or to prevent the worsening of such situation”:
- To prohibit any person from departing from their home during the specified period of time, except with the permission of a competent official or being an exempted person;
- To prohibit the assembly or gathering of persons at any place which may cause unrest;
- To prohibit the press release, distribution or dissemination of letters, publications or any means of communication containing texts which may instigate fear amongst the people or is intended to distort information which misleads understanding of the emergency situation;
- To prohibit the use of routes or vehicles, or prescribe conditions on the use of routes or vehicle;
- To prohibit the use of buildings or enter into or stay in any place;
- To evacuate people out of a designated area for the safety of such people or to prohibit any person from entering a designated area.
What measures are being taken to help affected workers?
Thailand’s Cabinet has approved the following package of measures to help worked affected by the impact of the coronavirus:
- Cash handout: A cash handout of 5,000 baht a month will be given for three months, from April to June 2020, to workers outside the social security system, or insured persons without employers. The cash handouts, worth 45 billion baht, will cover three million workers. Registration for this programme will open soon at the Government Savings Bank, the Krungthai Bank, and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives.
- Emergency loans: In another programme, emergency loans of 40 billion baht will be offered to the people. Each person is allowed to seek a 10,000-baht loan from the program at a monthly low interest rate of 0.1 percent, with no collateral. The repayment period is two years and six months, with a grace period of six months.
- Income and corporate tax: Personal income tax filing will be extended to 31 August 2020. Corporate income tax filing will also be extended. Health insurance premium deduction will be increased from 15,000 baht to 25,000 baht. Tax exemption on risk payments will be provided for medical personnel and related workers.
Meanwhile, the Department of Internal Trade has reaffirmed that there are sufficient consumer products to cope with the demand of the people. “Therefore, people should not stockpile or panic buy. Many traders are offering delivery services for people who may find it inconvenient to go out during this time,” as shared in a statement.
What else can the general public expect in Thailand during this period?
In his update, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha stated: “From now, I will directly administer all measures in the fight against COVID-19, including disease outbreak prevention, medical care for citizens, compensation and assistance to affected persons, and the revival of our economy. I will head these tasks and therefore, report information directly to the people.”
As such, he shared the following designations, with the PM at the head of the response taskforce:
- Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health to be in charge of all public health issues for the emergency situation;
- Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Interior to be in charge of all orders to provincial governors and the Governor of Bangkok for the emergency situation;
- Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce to be charge on controls of all consumer products and medical supplies for the emergency situation;
- Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be in charge of all foreign affairs issues related to the emergency situation, including assistance provided to Thai citizens overseas;
- Supreme Commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces to be in charge of all national security issues related to the emergency situation;
- Continued cooperation from advisory teams currently assisting with the Centre.
In the days to come, announcements on the following issues can be expected:
- Restrictions for access to risk areas;
- Closure of risk areas;
- Closure of entry/access points to the country;
- Restrictions/conditions on certain vulnerable groups (such as the elderly, the sick, and children) from leaving living premises;
- Restrictions on hoarding of consumer items, and ensuring of price controls on items;
- Restrictions on the deliberate dispensing of distorted information.
In avoid to avoid the dispensing of false information, there will be one daily announcement/press briefing that will include a situation report and recommendations for the public to follow. He added: “I also ask for cooperation from the media to be responsible in their reporting and use information from our daily announcement/press briefing, especially from our medical experts, rather than interviews from officials or medical personnel who should not be distracted from doing their urgent tasks.”
He also caution social media users to share useful and factual information, rather than sharing any false information that will harm the public. “For those who are thinking of such things at a time when people are suffering, with a life or death situation – you will not get away with it. We will use every measure of the law to deal with your actions with firmness and resolve.”
He concluded his address: “This time will bring pain and hardships for all of us and this crisis will test our unity and resilience. But now is also the time to bring out the best in each other, through our courage, our kindness to one another, and the sacrifices that we have to make to help others.”