High time for curfew to go
The country's performance in controlling the spread of coronavirus is quite impressive, with new daily infections hovering in the single digits, if any at all, for weeks now. This strong record has led to the gradual reopening of the country, with the first phase starting early this month to try to reignite the economic engine.
Also on Sunday, the government gave the nod for more economic activities to resume.
Now comes a crucial question: Should the state of emergency put in place on March 26 be extended when it expires at the end of this month? The emergency decree gives the government of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha special powers to impose a swathe of stringent measures, including a curfew which is aimed at restricting social activities that may spread the disease.
Yesterday, National Security Council secretary-general Somsak Roongsita insisted the decree must be extended until the end of next month. He is to table that proposal at a meeting of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) chaired by Gen Prayut today.
Previously, there were reports that the government wanted to seek public opinion on whether the decree should be lifted.
The NSC chief said even though the local situation has apparently improved, global infections remain a grave concern, and it is necessary for Thailand to maintain some tight measures and avoid a second spike of infections, causing further economic damage.
Gen Somsak is indisputably right in that the country cannot "lower its guard" in the fight to prevent new infections. But he is totally wrong in thinking that the special powers, without accountability, are needed to stave off the virus.
When discussing the matter today, the NSC chief and the CCSA should be well aware that existing laws and regulations are sufficient to that end, as long as concerned agencies keep working hard and efficiently.
One of the laws is the Communicable Diseases Act, which on its own is powerful and comprehensive enough. The authorities can enact this law when they need to close markets, entertainment venues or schools. The imposition of state quarantine can also go on without the emergency decree.
In particular, the curfew, which has been shortened by one hour to 11pm-4am, must immediately be lifted. The government should not worry about infections since all at-risk spots -- pubs, movie theatres, massage shops, schools and colleges -- are closed and will stay that way in the weeks ahead.
The curfew is making life hard for many, especially those using public transport. There were reports that some people who got sick at night did not dare leave their homes to go to hospital.
More than three months since Covid-19 hit the country, people have learned a great deal about the disease and duly cooperated with the state, embracing the new normal. Now that the situation appears to be well under control, the government should return the country to normalcy while taking precautions, lifting both the decree and the curfew.
What's more, the government should learn from its mistakes and admit that the surge in infections in the early stages of the outbreak was mainly caused by its own miscalculation of the situation, while some state agencies were too lenient, allowing places like an army-owned boxing stadium and some pubs to continue operating, despite an order to the contrary. It should be noted in the boxing stadium case, no officers have yet been made to answer for their actions.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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