Thailand has banned the entry of foreigners and the government may impose a 24-hour curfew as its next step to tackle the spread of Covid-19 under the Emergency Decree which goes into effect on Thursday.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced on Wednesday the country would be under a state of emergency as of Thursday until April 30, as Thailand reaches a turning point in its battle with Covid-19 transmissions.
The armed forces will set up checkpoints across the country under the Emergency Decree and 16 first-level instructions have been issued following the prime minister’s national address. A curfew is not imposed at this level.
However, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who oversees legal affairs, said a curfew might be imposed later if considered necessary.
“If a curfew is imposed, it will be without warning, so people will panic and buy up food and basic necessities,” he said. He added that if the government does go ahead with imposing a curfew to curb the spread of Covid-19, the order will be different from previous curfews which were only imposed at night to maintain peace and order.
“The curfew for Covid-19 is likely to cover 24 hours, with exceptions for individuals seeking medical treatment, those going to court or those working in broadcasting services.”
Among first-level directives imposed under the Emergency Decree, foreigners are banned from entering the kingdom at all points with the exception of diplomats, shippers, drivers, pilots and others permitted by the prime minister. Thai nationals stranded in other countries will still be allowed to return provided they have a fit-to-fly health certificate.
The public, meanwhile, has been urged to refrain from travelling upcountry. Interprovincial travellers are required to install an app for tracking and will have to undergo screening at several checkpoints. Children under five and adults above the age of 70 and those with underlying health problems are strongly recommended to stay home. All public gatherings are banned.
Gen Prayut also threatened to take swift and drastic action against those who take advantage of others during these difficult times — an apparent reference to hoarders.
“I want to warn those bent on taking advantage of people’s plight and death. Don’t think they will get away. I will do everything possible to deal with them swiftly and expeditiously. They will be spared no mercy,” he said.
Gen Prayut said that as the situation may worsen, more stringent measures will be necessary to stem the spread of the virus and cushion its impact on people and their livelihoods. He also appealed to the public to comply with these measures despite the inconvenience.
“From now the measures to be imposed will be more intense and will affect people’s lives. I’m asking you to comply and be responsible. Some people may feel their rights are being infringed upon, but all this is being done to protect lives. If we take things seriously, we can get through this,” he said.
According to the PM, the Covid-19 Administration Centre is upgraded as a special agency under the decree’s Section 7 to integrate all efforts to combat the virus. He said he will personally be in charge of tackling the virus and he will report directly to the people. He said the permanent secretaries of Public Health, Interior, Commerce and Foreign Affairs are there to help him, while the armed forces chief will oversee security.
In a move to control fake news that may cause panic, the PM has called on media outlets to check the facts with a special communications team, while a team of doctors will hold a press briefing daily.
National police chief Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda said on Wednesday that a 24-hour curfew is a possibility, but the situation so far does not warrant it.