23 May 2024

Thailand’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has expressed grave concerns over the prospect of a rapid spread of COVID-19 if thousands of people gather together at an event like a protest rally.

He said today that all senior public health officials, well versed in the spread of communicable diseases, have shared their common concerns that Thailand, which has contained the spread of COVID-19 quite well so far, may face a widespread outbreak if thousands of people gather together, providing a perfect environment for the spread of the virus.

As a politician, Mr. Anutin said he is reluctant to mention the current student political rallies because he will be accused of interfering with student affairs or of having political agenda.

He made clear that he has no intention whatsoever of preventing the students from expressing their political views, as it is their basic right, but he warned that the organizers will be held accountable if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 among those who attend such gatherings.

He described as fake news a report that the Public Health Ministry had asked Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to invoke the Internal Security Act to ban political rallies.

According the ministerial announcement, designating COVID-19 as a dangerous infectious disease from today (Sunday), Thai people should not visit high-risk countries but, if the visit cannot be avoided, they will be subject to mandatory home quarantine for 14 days after their return.

Additionally, activities which attract crowds, which will risk exposure to those who are sneezing and coughing, should be avoided and organizers will be required to take precautionary measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

By virtue of the announcement, Mr. Anutin said that health officials are now obliged to enforce the law for public safety, otherwise they will be charged with negligence.