Isolation ‘recommended’ but enforcement authority is unclear

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Authorities scrambled on Friday to ease worries about new self-quarantine measures for arrivals from six virus-hit countries and territories, a day after announcing compulsory isolation. But confusion persists over whether the government is ordering or merely “recommending” self-quarantine for 14 days, with punishment for travellers who ignore the “advice”.

Public Health Ministry spokesman Rungrueng Kiphati told Reuters on Thursday that people arriving from those six places would be fined 20,000 baht if they did not self-quarantine for 14 days at home or in a hotel room, “where they have to report themselves to the authorities every day or officials will come to check on them”. “For now, we are recommending people to exercise home quarantine. But if you don’t follow that, then we will use the law to take you to government quarantine centres,” said Sukhum Kanchanapimai, the ministry’s permanent secretary. The government’s Public Relations Department, meanwhile, appeared to be reading from a different script. On its verified Twitter account on Friday, it repeated the threat of a 20,000-baht fine for those who failed to self-quarantine.

The Education Ministry recommended to schools that children who had travelled from France, Germany, Japan, Singapore or Taiwan stay home under quarantine, according to an email sent to parents on Friday from the International School of Bangkok, even though the health ministry did not recommend this. Meanwhile, the Public Health Ministry said people coming from Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands and the United States are recommended — rather than required — to quarantine themselves for 14 days. The Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific said in an advisory that travellers from China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Iran and Italy “are allowed to enter” Thailand but have to self-quarantine at their hotel or residence.

The tourism-reliant economy is reeling from the travel curbs sparked by Covid-19, which globally has infected almost 100,000 people and killed over 3,000. The Tourism Authority of Thailand confirmed Thursday the country could see a loss of six million visitors in 2020. The country reported one new case of infection on Friday, taking its total to 48. There has been one fatality, while 16 people remain in hospital and the rest have been discharged.

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