While the government and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) keep warning the public to "not let their guard down" in order to prevent a second wave of infections, it is becoming evident that state agencies are the ones failing to strictly abide by anti-coronavirus measures.
Thailand is in the middle of a health scare after it was reported that a soldier from Egypt, who arrived in Thailand for a short visit with his entourage on July 8, tested positive for Covid-19. The test results became known on Sunday after the contingent had already left the country.
The soldiers -- whose identities and ranks were withheld by the government -- stayed in Thailand before leaving for a one-day visit to Chengdu, China on July 9. They returned to Thailand on July 10, where they were required to undergo another test before leaving the kingdom.
Since it was an official trip, it is understood that the government exempted the group from a number of entry requirements, including the mandatory 14-day quarantine. It was also reported that the soldiers were allowed in because they were listed as "air crew".
While there are other groups -- including members of the diplomatic corps and their families -- which were also exempted from quarantine rules, the Egyptian soldier case should be treated differently as it reflects an unforgivable leniency in enforcing virus control measures on the part of Thai authorities.
The 31-member delegation arrived in Thailand through U-Tapao airport in Rayong and there were reports that the screening process at the airport was not as strict as it was at Suvarnabhumi airport. The soldier in question passed an initial virus test at the airport, though it appeared he might have had some symptoms.
Here is the problem. The soldier and other members of his delegation were allowed to leave their hotel in Rayong to do some shopping and other activities. The shopping venues have yet to be revealed.
Exempting officers on official state visits from quarantine rules is understandable, but allowing them to leave their accommodation to go shopping during a global health crisis is a big no-no.
Taweesilp Visanuyothin, CCSA spokesman, was visibly upset about the new imported cases during yesterday's press conference. He vowed the CCSA would reconsider current practices and said officials from Bangkok will join provincial officers to check all of the places the Egyptian delegation visited and everyone they came in close contact with.
The case caused embarrassment and public disappointment. Some have complained of double standards, going as far as comparing the way the government treats Thai returnees and/or returning expatriates, all of whom were and are required to go through quarantine and observe tough virus control measures.
The military is distancing itself from the case, with U-Tapao airport officials telling reporters "only one out of 31 delegates sneaked out". Such an explanation is ridiculous and leaves some questions unanswered. For instance, how could the soldier (or soldiers) leave the assigned accommodation with a liaison officer around?
As of yesterday, Thailand has been free of local transmission for more than a month, as all new infections were found in state quarantine venues. That impressive record may be broken because of the actions of some careless officers.
Those involved in the case owe the public a good explanation.