The Thai Council of State is currently reviewing a draft public health emergency law which will come to parliament in November to replace the Emergency Decree which is due to be rescinded. This may create a new body to replace the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) which may even be larger than the current government unit directing the country’s response to the crisis.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam indicated this week that a new emergency law to replace the Emergency Decree, declared to fight the virus pandemic, may be presented to parliament after November as an advisor to the current Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) estimated that 7 million people may have already had the disease in Bangkok. The CCSA may be replaced by a larger organisation under the new regime for directing the emergency response.
An official with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has estimated that as many as 7 million people in Bangkok may have already contracted or had the COVID-19 virus.
That is half the population of the Bangkok Metropolitan area which has a population of 14 million people approximately.
Assessment based on 1.2 million already confirmed infections in the metropolis and asymptomatic cases
Udom Kachintorn made the assessment on the basis that there are already 1.2 million people, who have contracted the virus, in the city which is planning to reopen to foreign tourism in October.
Experts estimate that the real case scenario is that there are up to six times the number of confirmed cases on the ground as many people will have contracted the disease and remained asymptomatic.
It comes as Thailand has begun to reorientate its official response to the pandemic as the government moves to reopen and revive a badly damaged economy while infection numbers from the virulent third wave, although declining after a peak in mid-August, are still worryingly high.
Fears of a resurgence of the Delta variant of the virus which continues to spread throughout Thailand and the capital as the economy ramps up and reopens
In recent days, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), the nerve centre of the government’s response to this crisis has indicated that infection levels could surge again as public health restrictions are loosened and economic activity ramps up.
This was explained by CCSA advisor Udom Kachintorn who said that authorities are still on guard against the Delta variant of the virus which continues to spread across the country and even in Bangkok which is a trop priority for the country’s vaccination campaign.
As of the 7th of September, Thailand has reported that 15% of the population or 10.5 million people have been fully vaccinated with 36.6 million having already received a first dose.
Plans to rescind the Emergency Decree in motion with draft new health emergency law being finalised by the Council of State after ministers suggested changes
The government is now preparing to rescind the country’s wide-ranging Emergency Decree which came into force in March 2020. It is planning to replace it with what appears to be a new public health emergency law according to its legal expert and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.
On Wednesday, he explained that if the Emergency Decree comes to an end, the current Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) may cease to exist legally but de facto would continue its operations until the new law is passed by parliament.
General Natthapon Nakpanich, the Secretary-general of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), this week suggested that the Emergency Decree may be rescinded as early as the end of September although it has continuously been extended despite such assertions before.
Comments from Mr Wissanu suggested that the new law will be placed before parliament in November
Mr Wissanu has indicated that the passage of the new law may not take place until after the next parliamentary session which commences on November 1st as the current session winds down on September 19th.
A spokesman for the Council of State, Nopadhol Pereererks, has confirmed the body is again reviewing a draft of the law after changes were submitted by ministers which are now being considered before it proceeds to parliament.
Mr Wissanu Krea-ngam, on Wednesday, suggested that, under the new law, the current Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) may even be expanded.
Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) now plays a powerful role in regulating the economy
The government foresees an ongoing role for the body whose decisions and regulations now have an impact on every aspect of life in Thailand and a key determining role in the performance of the Thai economy.
A key question is what impact this will have on travel and entry requirements into Thailand including the ongoing Certificate of Entry process, control over air passenger traffic, quarantine requirements and the growing network of rules and regulations over the foreign tourism sector linked with the expansion of sandbox initiatives and the Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus scheme which increasingly excludes smaller business concerns.
Body to replace it may be even larger says Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu with tailored legal provisions
Mr Wissanu also suggested that the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration may be replaced by a new body to operate under the new law which would specifically be tailored to a public health emergency.
‘In practice, the CCSA will continue to function while the government deliberates the new disease control law, although it may have to be transformed into something else after the state of emergency is lifted,’ he said. ‘As the general state of emergency has been used for some time now, we have found that it doesn’t exactly fit the public health emergency the country is dealing with now. As such a specific law is required to replace the general state of emergency. When the new law is in place, a body even larger than the CCSA may be established if needed, so it doesn’t really matter if the CCSA is dissolved or not.’
It is understood that the new law will work with the Communicable Disease Act 2015 which was used at the outset of the emergency in February and March 2020.
Cautious welcome for the move from the opposition
There was a broad and cautious welcome from opposition parties in parliament to the development coming after a rancorous and highly damaging censure debate from the point of view of the government last week despite winning the votes.
Dr Rewat Wisutwet of the Thai Liberal Party welcomed the move and the reliance on parliamentary statute for governance.
He also called for the ongoing response to the emergency to be led by the Ministry of Public Health free of political interference.