Emergency declared as government rolls out measures to help workers and businesses

The Thai government has declared a nationwide state of emergency in a stepped- up effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, which has so far affected 827 people and killed four.

The Emergency Decree, which is due to take effect on Thursday and last a month, will give Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wide-ranging powers to enforce the stay at home directive. They include the power to impose curfews and put restrictions on travel.

Speaking at a news conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting, the prime minister said drastic action needs to be taken to deal with the worsening pandemic as the number of new infection cases continue to rise.

 

Despite the government’s plea for people stay home and limit their non-essential travel, thousands of people continue to leave the city while crowds of people are still seen hanging out, ignoring the social distancing guideline.

Prayut, who donned a face mask while speaking to reporters, suggested a lockdown might be inevitable if people do not cooperate with the authorities. But for the time being, he said, the government is asking for cooperation from the public.

 

“The government certainly doesn’t want to resort to legal enforcement as long as we can get cooperation from the public,” he said.

He said people who still travel will be subject to strict inspection and screening which he described as a “barrier” to minimize movements of people.

The prime minister did not spell out which of the drastic measures permitted under the decree will be adopted. “We will evaluate the situation on a daily basis,” he said.

Prayut also warned against hoarding and profiteering which he said will be drastically dealt with under the decree.

The Cabinet today also rolled out a package of measures to assist workers, employees and independent professionals, small enterprises and other businesses affected by the pandemic.

 

People not covered by the social security scheme will receive a monthly handout of 5,000 baht for three months until May.  About three million people will benefit from this measure.

If the handouts are insufficient, they are entitled to seek emergency loans, amounting to 10,000 baht at a 0.1% interest rate, from the Government Savings Bank, Krung Thai and Government Housing Bank.  If the amount is still not enough, they can ask for a special loan, of up to 50,000 baht at a 0.35% interest rate with collateral.

 

The government has also made available soft loans to pawn shops, so that they can lend to members of public at low interest rates.

Submission of tax returns for individual taxpayers will be extended from March to August and health insurance deductions will be increased from 15,000 baht to 29,000 baht.

 

Risk allowances, for medical professionals involved in the fight against the virus, will be exempted from taxation. A special credit line, amounting to 10,000 million baht, will be set aside for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Excise tax payments for entertainment venues will be extended for three months and all products related to the fight against the virus will be exempted from customs taxes.

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