Thailand to extend emergency decree until end of August

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand will extend a state of emergency until the end of August, a senior official said on Wednesday, maintaining the security measure put in place to contain its coronavirus outbreak.

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The announcement comes after nearly two months without local transmission and with many people in Thailand questioning the need for an emergency decree.

The decree, first introduced in late March, will be subject to cabinet approval next week.

“It is still necessary to have the decree because we are opening up the country for more business meetings and tourism to stimulate the economy,” said Somsak Roongsita, secretary-general of the National Security Council, adding that doctors had requested it be maintained.

The extension comes after political protests took place last week against the government, in defiance of a ban on gatherings. Somsak, however, said the emergency decree would be used only to contain virus outbreaks and not rallies.

“Political gatherings will be subject to the law, but not the decree,” he added.

Thailand will begin allowing the entry of business executives for trade shows, migrant labourers, film makers and medical tourists, spokesman for the government’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), Taweesin Wisanuyothin said.

Up to 110,000 migrant labourers from Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia will gradually be allowed entry and be tested for the coronavirus upon arrival.

Foreign film makers and business executives will need a virus-free certificate from within three days before travel and have medical insurance.

Medical tourists will have to stay in their hospitals for two weeks before taking additional trips in the country, Taweesin said.

All foreign entries will be subject to a 14-day quarantine.

Thailand has reported a total of 3,261 infections and 58 deaths.

Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty and Ed Davies