Forestalling a second wave of infections, and not politics, is behind the government's need to extend enforcement of the emergency decree as lockdown measures are set to loosen up, said Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.
He said the extended use of the special law, which was first implemented in late March to slow the spread of Covid-19, is not politically motivated, adding the government is being cautious about a possible second wave of infections.
Gen Prawit's assurances came as the cabinet is expected today to approve a recommendation by the Centre for the Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to extend the enforcement of the emergency decree for another month.
But the opposition and critics disagree with prolonging the emergency decree, saying the Communicable Disease Act alone should be enough to control the spread of the virus. They argue the government has a hidden agenda and want to hold onto emergency decree powers to restrict political activities that will challenge it.
Earlier, CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin spoke in defense of using the decree, saying it is a far better tool than other laws because it unites virus control efforts under the command of the prime minister.
Dr Taweesilp on Monday urged members of the public to remain vigilant and to wear masks, frequently wash their hands and practise social distancing as the next phase of the lockdown easing begins.
"There is one week to go before entering the third phase of relaxation. Whether a further easing will occur depends on this week. I want to urge everyone to keep their guard up at all time," he said at the CCSA's daily briefing at Government House.
But public health officials said on Monday there are signs that people are becoming less vigilant as the number of new daily infections drops.
Thanarak Plipat, deputy chief of the Department of Disease Control, said some organisations began relaxing preventative measures -- for example, cancelling work from home. Consequently, BTS stations are once again overcrowded during peak hours.
But Dr Thanarak said the Covid-19 situation in Thailand has improved, with the number of new daily infections dropping to rates not seen since the early phase of the pandemic in February.
He said public health authorities want to keep up the momentum, adding the lockdown measures will not be necessary if the number of new daily infections is kept below 5 per 1 million people.
"For example, Bangkok has a population of 8 million. If the number of Covid-19 patients is 40, transmission is considered limited," he said.
Dr Thanarak said the situation would become critical when the number of new patients is more than 10 per 1 million people nationwide, which would prompt stricter lockdown measures.
Meanwhile, the CCSA on Monday confirmed two new coronavirus cases and one death.
One of the new cases was a Chinese citizen, the wife of an Italian who had been infected with the virus. The other was a female masseuse who returned to Thailand from Russia on Wednesday and is under state quarantine in Chon Buri province.
The latest fatality was a woman, 68, who died in Chumphon province on Sunday. She had been in contact with another patient before developing symptoms and had also suffered from diabetes, kidney failure and high blood pressure, he said. Thailand has had 3,042 confirmed cases and 57 deaths since the outbreak began.
Dr Taweesilp said health investigators were still trying to locate where a 72-year old patient who showed symptoms on May 17 and tested positive the next day contracted the virus. He said health investigators traced the patient's contacts from April 30-May 16, finding he had gone to several places including two state hospitals and a market.