The order, issued last night, comes into effect today (Mar 18).
All sports venues, cinemas and massages shops must remain closed for 14 days, Governor Phakaphong said,
Governor Phakaphong explained that the Phuket Communicable Disease Committee’s decision to close all entertainment venues followed the Cabinet’s resolution yesterday.
The same closure of all entertainment venues is in force in Bangkok and surrounding provinces, he added.
“As for remedial measures for those affected, the government has issued many remedial measures and so the Phuket Government will follow the national measures, not exclusive measures only for Phuket,” Governor Phakaphong said.
Owners of venues can file a request directly to the Phuket Governor’s Office to be considered whether their venues should be closed or not, he noted.
“However, they must have good reasons to support the consideration under the Communicable Disease Act, B.E. 2558 (2015),” he added.
Official notices announcing the closure will be sent to about 300 venues to be closed in Phuket, he said.
“Those venues which match the definition of a place of entertainment will also have to be closed, and whoever violates the announcement will be punished according to the Communicable Disease Act,” he warned.
Penalties for any person who violates or fails to comply with the order of a communicable disease control officer range from up to one month in jail or a fine of up to B10,000, or both, up to one year in prison or a fine of up to B100,000, or both, depending on which section of the act the transgressor is deemed to have violated. (See Communicable Disease Act here.)
Also of note, Section 48 of the Communicable Disease Act also allows people to seek damages for any harm done by any enforcement of the act.
Section 48 stipulates: “In performing the act by a communicable disease control officer under this Act, if damage has occurred to any person or property of any person from the surveillance, prevention or control of diseases, the official service shall pay compensation for the damage occurred to such person as necessary.
“Reimbursement of the damage under paragraph one shall be in accordance with the criteria, procedures and conditions prescribed in the Ministerial Regulations.”
Governor Phakaphong repeated that health officials in Phuket have been screening arrivals at Phuket International Airport and other ports of entry “continuously”.
“As for the tourists who come from the serious risk countries [Italy, Iran, South Korea, China, including Hong Kong and Macau], the government has taken measures by cancelling visas on arrival, so that tourists from those areas must have a visa before coming,” he said.
“For example, for Chinese people traveling to Thailand wanting to enter the country on a visa on arrival, which is issued at the airport, the authorities have now canceled their visa-free visa and visa on arrival [privileges], therefore [nationals from] any country that is subject to a visa on arrival cannot come [without first having a visa].
Governor Phakaphong did explain that any persons arriving from the six risk areas wanting to enter Thailand must submit at a Royal Thai Embassy or consulate documents including a medical certificate issued within the past 48 hours confirming that the applicant was not infected with COVID-19, and they must have health insurance of at least US$100,000 (about B3.223 million) – both requirements already long made clear by the DDC on its website. (See here.)
Governor Phakaphong also repeated that that officials had the power by law to enact the precautionary measures.
However, amazing and according to a report issued by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department of Thailand and confirmed by a reporter from The Phuket News at the meeting late last night, Governor Phakaphong also said, “To get a free visa people must apply at an embassy or consulate by using the same supporting documents.”
The statement throws into confusion whether or not free visas are actually still available.
“This issue has been determined by the central government that all provinces must do the same,” he said, apparently unaware of which government department issues visas.
Governor Phakaphong did stress, “This is not the authority of the Communicable Disease Committee. This issue is relevant to international law, it is about rights and violation of rights supported by law set by the central government. In this regard, the Phuket Passport Office will continue to publicise information to the public and the media.”
Governor Phakaphong did not explain why the Phuket Passport Office, of any office in the province or in the country, would be disseminating that information, other than the general knowledge that the Phuket Passport Office operates under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with its main role to issue passports to Thais.
Seemingly responding to some reports posted somewhere, Governor Phakaphong also said that health officers screening for the virus since Jan 5 “does not mean shutdown, which prohibits people entering or leaving the city.”
“The facts did not proceed in that way,” he said.
Phuket was the first province to start screening arrivals from China, he said.
“We have documentary evidence to prove the province has been doing this since since January 4, 2020,” he said, instantly contradicting himself over the actual date when the screening started.
“In terms of helping tourists we have opened a center, which is a confirmation that the Phuket Government and relevant government agencies in Phuket are aware and will help to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but we must ask for cooperation from the people.
“It must be a social responsibility, with people taking care of their own health and monitoring those around them, such as relatives, and report any developments to the proper officials.
“Finally, we would like to people be careful about sharing posts [online]. Sharing information that has not been check will make the situation worse,” he said.
In closing, Governor Phakaphong again attempted to mitigate his own responsibility in any issues involving the government’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, including the lack of information provided to the public about any suspected cases of COVID-19 in Phuket.
“Information about infected persons or persons suspected of being infected cannot be disclosed according to the Communicable Disease Act B.E. B.E. 2015 and it is the authority of the Ministry of Public Health to disclosure any information [regarding this].
“It is not the responsibility of the governor, the role of the governor has the duty to comply with the Cabinet and the Minister,” he said.
Governor Phakaphong also responded to heavy criticism levelled by Phuket’s major tourism business associations, including calling for establishing a non-government command centre being set up and having journalists releasing information to the public, not government agencies. (See story here).
“In the event that the private sector calls for the establishment of a crisis management center in this matter, they have not looked at details,” he said.