State of emergency extended despite easing Covid-19 restrictions

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) announced today (26 November) that it will extend the state of emergency for another 2 months, while also announcing that current Covid-19 restrictions will be eased from 1 December onwards.

On 23 November, a musicians' network staged a small performance at the Misakawan Intersection and filed a petition calling for entertainment businesses to be allowed to reopen.

BBC Thai reported that, according to resolutions made during the CCSA’s meeting today, the state of emergency, which was first declared in March 2020 and was previously extended to end on 30 November, will be extended until 31 January 2022. This is the 15th extension to the state of emergency since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.

The continuous use of the Emergency Decree during the pandemic has been criticized by civil society, as its provisions have been used to prosecute pro-democracy activists and critics of the government. According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), at least 1337 people are facing charges under the Emergency Decree for joining protests since the first case in May 2020.

The government had also issued an order under the Emergency Decree banning the reporting or distribution of information which may cause public fear or which intentionally distorts information creating misunderstanding during the emergency to the point where it affects national security, or peace and order, or the good morals of the people, whether through printed publication or any other form of media. The order was later suspended by the Civil Court following a lawsuit filed by members of the press and civil society organizations.

The CCSA also said that no province is now considered a “dark red zone,” or area where disease control measures are at the strictest levek. It is also lifting the curfew for the entire country from 1 December onwards, and increasing the number of provinces in the “blue zone,” or areas open for tourism, from 4 to seven; these now include Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Krabi, Kanchanaburi, Pathum Thani, Phang Nga, and Phuket.

Restrictions for those arriving from overseas will also be eased. Travellers with a negative PCR test result from within 72 hours before arrival will be allowed to enter the country immediately if an on-arrival rapid test also comes out negative. Travellers arriving through the immigration checkpoint at Nongkhai will also not have to undergo a quarantine period if they have a negative PCR test result and have received full dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, entertainment businesses will be allowed to reopen on 16 January 2022, despite demands from businessowners and entertainment workers to be allowed to return to work on 1 December.

CCSA spokesperson Taweesin Visanuyothin said that entertainment businesses are not yet allowed to reopen since they risk spreading the virus and creating clusters of infection because these venues often have ventilation issues and customers often stay longer than they would at restaurants. He also said that they might be allowed to reopen sooner if businessowners comply with government measures.

Signs displayed at the performance staged by the Workers' Union and the "Musicians Have a Voice" group say "Open on 1 December 2020" and "We've been waiting for two years. What's the point?"

Since March 2020, the CCSA has continuously issue closure orders for entertainment businesses and bans on gatherings. Meanwhile, businessowners and workers, including musicians, artists, service staff, and security staff, who are left without income, received no compensation from the government and were not provided with effective vaccines.

According to the labour rights group Workers’ Union, around 40-50% of entertainment businesses have closed permanently, causing difficulties for those who work in the sector, while the closures do not seem to have helped lower infection rates. 

The Workers’ Union and the musicians’ network นักดนตรีมีเสียง (“Musicians have a voice”) also filed a petition addressed to Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha on 23 November demanding that nightlife and entertainment businesses be allowed to reopen on 1 December, as previously stated by the Prime Minister, as well as to delay the curfew on alcohol sales from 21.00 to midnight.

They also asked that the government and financial institutions provide them with a 6-month moratorium and to promote low-interest loans, and that those who are employed by businesses that are unable to reopen on 1 December must receive compensation.

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