The Ministry of Public Health plans to improve the Communicable Diseases Act with seven applicable regulations against the spread of Covid-19 to tighten health control measures and reduce future dependency on the Emergency Decree.
Sophon Iamsirithavorn, chief of the Communicable Disease Division, revealed yesterday, August 29, that the legal regulations in the Communicable Diseases Act had been applied nationally since 2015. And according to Thai law, any regulations that had been used for more than 5 years should be revised and improved to the current situation.
The chief also claimed that the Covid-19 pandemic early this year had proved that some regulations in Thailand’s Communicable Diseases Act were somewhat loosened.
“The current regulations did not potentially have the power to deal with a large group of people nor to give penalties for those who violate. For example, Singapore had immediately ordered their people to wear face masks when going out during the pandemic. For those who didn’t would get substantial penalties. But we did not have such authority under the Communicable Disease Act and only could kindly ask Thai people to cooperate, and fortunately, they did so.” said Sophon.
The announcement from the Department of Disease Control, signed by Tanarak Plipat, deputy director-general of the Disease Control Department, had introduced seven principles in order to manage the problems efficiently including:
1. To grant the central administration the authority to issue announcements or orders for appropriate surveillance, prevention, and control of communicable diseases or epidemics.
2. National determination of rules, procedures, or conditions for travelers to enter the Kingdom for the benefit of surveillance, prevention, and control of communicable diseases and epidemics to prevent spreading in the country.
3. National determination of the rules, procedures, or conditions of a place where communicable disease control officials could use for state quarantine to those who are infected or who might be infected with a communicable disease or epidemic.
4. National determination of criteria, methods, or conditions for the acquisition, the access, or the disclosure of personal information of those who are infected or who might be infected for the purpose of surveillance, prevention, and control of communicable diseases and epidemics.
5. To designate the National Committee on Communicable Diseases to direct or assign the Provincial Communicable Diseases Committee or the Bangkok Communicable Disease Committee to conduct surveillance, prevention, and control of communicable diseases or epidemics appropriately, timely, and accordingly.
6. National determination of the rules, procedures, or conditions for those who were ordered to state quarantine by the communicable disease control as well as those who were under Section 41 and 42 of the Communicable Diseases Act, B.E. 2558, to be responsible for the expenses, such as medical expenses, facility costs, or cleaning expenses.
7. Determination of persons who found themselves infected or possibly infected with communicable diseases and epidemics to be responsible for notifying the communicable disease control officer as well as persons under Section 31 of the Communicable Diseases Act, B.E. 2558.
In addition, the Department of Disease Control has also opened for public comments between 18 August – 1 September 2020 through the website of the Department of Disease Control.
In short, these improvements and changes will allow the communicable disease act to better control an emergency disease situation without the currently used Emergency Decree, which gives the Thai Government, especially the Prime Minister, sweeping powers to control an emergency situation. The Thai Government has stated that the Decree must be used as there are many aspects of the Communicable Disease Act in its current form that cannot be properly controlled. These proposed changes would fix that, without the criticism of sweeping powers for the Government and/or Army under the Emergency Decree.
Critics of the Emergency Decree claim it has been used to oppose mass assembly and stop anti-government protesters from expressing their views. The Thai Government strongly disagrees with this officially and removed the ban on mass assembly on the first of August.