Not calling the order a “curfew”, the official notice issued at 6:01pm tonight asked for all Thai and foreign tourists to stay in their hotel room or other accommodation from 5pm (one hour before the order was issued) to midnight.
Bizarrely, the order called for tourists to cooperate with the request specifically tonight (March 25), but did not mention whether the “soft curfew” is to apply on any other nights.
The notice signed by Governor Phakaphong carefully “requests for cooperation” from tourists, and came just hours after Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam specifically announced to the nation this afternoon that there will not be any curfew in the country.
That news came as the nation braced for a slew of new measures to counter the spread of the disease under the state of emergency powers which are to come into effect tomorrow (Mar 26).
The state of emergency powers are to remain in effect through to April 30, Deputy PM Wissanu confirmed today.
He also explained that under the new powers, invoked at the request of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday, only people 70 years of age or older, children five or younger, and those already suffering from serious health conditions must stay at home.
“At this stage, we have not announced a curfew, which means everyone can go out, but these three groups of people are asked to stay at home,” he said.
“Any other people can go out at anytime,” Mr Wissanu said. “Government offices will remain open as usual and the media can continue reporting news of the outbreak, but please beware of fake news,” he said.
While for now a “lockdown” has been avoided, Mr Wissanu cautioned that other measures may need to be implemented later if the situation regarding the virus deteriorates.
“At this stage, we have not locked down the country as we are still waiting for Thai people to return home.
“We have not locked down provinces, but do not encourage people travel to other provinces as there will be a lot of checkpoints set up starting tonight,” he said.
“If you travel by public transport, you must have some space between each other,” he added.
“At the checkpoints, you have to be able to present an ID card and allow officers to check your body temperature,” Mr Wissanu noted.
Government offices will stay open.
“Factories and banks are also allowed to stay open. Restaurants can be open, but only for takeaway. Department stores can be open, but only grocery zones, drug stores and for selling essential consumer goods. All types of public transport can operate as normal,” Mr Wissanu said.
“People do not have to hoard goods, as stores are continuing to be restocked all the time. Also, goods and food delivery drivers can work normally, and we also support people using delivery services in order to not go out,” he said.
“Some events can be held as normal, such as marriages and funerals. For Songkran, we want you all to splash water together with your family, not in public areas and crowded places,” Deputy PM Wissanu explained.
“Official events may be held, but the number of attendees must be reduced,” he said.
All mass graduation ceremonies have been postponed, he added.
Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana this afternoon broke from a meeting concerning emergency decree to tell The Phuket News, “By ‘lockdown’ we mean that people should try to stay at home. I have asked for cooperation from people many times about this. You can go outside for necessary things, but please do not go to any place where crowds of people are gathered.
“You can go out, but please quickly come back home,” he said.
Last Friday and on Monday this week (Mar 23), Governor Phakaphong declared all major businesses to shut down to help prevent the spread of the virus, including the closure of most stores in shopping malls, except supermarkets, as well as forcing all restaurants on the island to serve takeaway food only. (See story here.)
The move to shut down most businesses on the island follows Governor Phakaphong last Tuesday (Mar 17) ordering all entertainment venues to close – with the order coming into effect the very next day.
Governor Phakaphong has repeatedly assured that officials have ramped up measures to prevent the spread of the disease on the island, including mandatory checks on all people arriving – and now all people departing – on the island by vehicles passing through the Phuket Check Point at the northern end of the island.
“At this time, the situation does not need to be upgraded to Level 3,” Governor Phakaphong said.
“However, if necessary, we will increase our surveillance. Phuket is ready to take care of patients and our Phuket brothers and sisters,” he said.
Additional reporting by Kiattikul Chumanee