Curfew power carries over
New act to supplant emergency decree
An amended Communicable Disease Act will grant the national committee on communicable diseases authority equivalent to that of the emergency decree, the government said on Wednesday.
The act will be used when dealing with serious communicable diseases and includes the power to impose curfews and ordering lockdowns.
Intended to be a new legal mechanism for use specifically to handle a serious public emergency, such as Covid-19, an executive decree amending the disease control law was approved by the cabinet on Tuesday.
It is expected to replace the emergency decree in the government's battle against Covid-19.
The draft executive decree now awaits parliamentary endorsement and publication in the Royal Gazette before coming into effect, a Government House source said.
The draft decree will likely be forwarded to parliament for endorsement when the new parliamentary session begins in November as the government appears unlikely to request for a special session specifically for this purpose, said the source.
"The executive decree is unlikely to take effect on Oct 1 as expected by some sides," said Chawetsan Namwat, director of the Emergency Health Hazard and Disease Control Division.
Various organisations need time to incorporate changes brought about by the amended law into their work before they can begin implementing it, making it impossible for the law to take effect on Oct 1, he said.
"As soon as a serious communicable disease is declared under the amended Communicable Disease Act, the prime minister, who will become the chairman of the national committee on communicable diseases, is granted authority equal to what Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha currently has as the director of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)," said Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
Currently, the public health minister serves also as the chairman of the committee, he said, adding that after the amended law takes effect, the minister will only become a member of the national committee.
"Aside from the authority to impose a curfew and lockdowns, the committee's chairman will also have the authority to order any state agencies to cooperate with the committee in containing such a serious public health emergency," Mr Anutin said.
Another Government House source, meanwhile, said the CCSA's sub-committee will on Thursday decide whether the state of emergency, imposed under the emergency decree and which is due to expire next Thursday, should be extended.
The subcommittee's resolution on the state of emergency's renewal will next be forwarded to the main committee of the CCSA for a decision at its next meeting on Monday, he said.
Dr Jetn Sirathranont, in his capacity as chairman of the Senate's committee on public health, said although he has yet to study the approved draft executive decree, he agreed in principle with it.
Dr Rewat Wisutwet, a Thai Liberal Party list MP who also has yet to study the draft executive decree in any detail, said he supports the principle that healthcare workers should be better protected from legal suits, which may be pursued against them later in relation to their roles in handling Covid-19 patients.
"As long as healthcare professionals meet standards and aren't negligent while performing their tasks, they should be released from liability for their actions performed during a serious public health emergency," he said.
He added that he had some doubts about the emergency decree's overall effectiveness in containing the pandemic.