Thai govt backtracks on announcement of Covid-19 cases facing jail if they didn't download tracing app

Multiple statements of clarification have been put by the authorities on the matter.

Matthias Ang | January 08, 2021, 10:48 PM

The Thai government has backtracked on an announcement that people who are infected with Covid-19 may face imprisonment and a fine if they did not download the country's tracing app, known as Mor Chana, the Bangkok Post reported.

The spokesman for Thailand's Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), Taweesilp Visanuyothin, apologised on Jan. 7 after he sparked an uproar with his initial announcement that such cases will face either a two-year jail term, or a fine of THB40,000 (S$1,760) or both.

Critics pointed out that there are many Thais who still do not have access to a smartphone and will be unable to download the app.

Authority clarifies that not having app will not mean jail

In a post on his Facebook page, Taweesilp subsequently clarified, according to Bangkok Post:

"I apologise for the misunderstanding. Not having the app does not land you in jail. The full sentence is if you are infected and conceal information, and we can’t find the app on your mobile phone, you will be considered violating the regulation."

Use of the app will only be mandatory in five provinces -- Chanthaburi, Chon Buri, Trat, Rayong and Samut Sakhon -- given that they have the highest rates of infections.

Meanwhile the official Facebook page for the Thai government's Covid-19 response which said that residents in areas deemed as high-risk should download the app.

However, if it is inconvenient to do, the information can be written on paper instead.

Public Health Minister: Government will allow paper-based contact tracing

The statement for writing down information was echoed by Thailand's Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, who said that he has since convinced the Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha to soften the regulation.

Anutin, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, added that Prayuth will amend the order to allow the use of paper-based contact tracing.

In addition, it is not mandatory to install the MorChana app, nor will there be legal punishment, Khaosod English further reported.

A spokesperson for the government, Anucha Burapachaisri, also said, that people who feel uncomfortable using the Mor Chana app can opt for recording his or her travel itinerary for submission at a Covid-19 checkpoint when travelling instead.

However, should the person be later found to have covered up their travel intentionally in a way which results in the spread of Covid-19, they will be held responsible, the spokesperson clarified.

As of Jan. 8, Thailand has recorded 9,841 cases of the virus and 67 deaths.

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