Celebrities were forced to come clean about their whereabouts to health officials under threat of prosecution after public outrage erupted over an apparent double standard in which VIPs are being allowed to withhold information required of everyone else.
Singer Karit “Kaow Aot” Puntham, 23, last night became the latest celeb in the spotlight after he admitted to not disclosing his whereabouts in the 14 days before he tested positive for COVID-19. A member of boyband Axis, Karit was confirmed to be among dozens at a birthday party for radio personality Techin “DJ Matoom” Ploypetch, who emerged as a super spreader after taking ill last week.
Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, City Hall spokesperson, said this morning that the singer will pay a penalty if he is found to have intentionally hidden information. Any infected patient who hides or refuses to give information to authorities is subject to a max penalty of two years in prison and a THB40,000 (USD$1,300) fine.
Techin initially went public with information last week that led to several restaurants and stores to close temporarily, while more than 300 employees rushed to get tested at his workplace GMM Grammy – all of which reportedly came back negative. But he withheld details about his two-day birthday party Jan. 8-9 at the Banyan Tree hotel on Sathon Road.
Karit’s representative told reporters that the singer didn’t intend to omit details from his personal timeline, giving the very plausible excuse that he “wanted to be sure” he was sick first.
It ultimately came out that he had misrepresented when he got infected, evidently to avoid disclosing that he had attended Techin’s party. The official who recorded his timeline information noted that he did not disclose all the requested information.
Since the second-wave pandemic began mid December, provincial administrators and local health officials work every day to publicly disseminate the anonymized whereabouts of each confirmed case in their area. The official reports identify patients only by occupation and gender and list where they visited for at least two weeks prior to testing positive.
Therefore, public fury ignited yesterday after it came out that local authorities were allowing VIPs such as celebrities and government officials to withhold that information. Apart from Karit, a PR rep and cop whose names haven’t been disclosed were also found to have withheld their information to health officials. All three are believed to have been infected by Techin at his happy super spreader party.
The heat further fanned existing flames of enmity toward Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who yesterday told reporters that Techin didn’t violate any laws by hosting his birthday rager, where at least 24 people are known to have been infected, so far.
Anutin said officials are only asking for the public to cooperate by not throwing parties, which shot many eyebrows up, causing people to question why the law comes down hard on public protests and serving alcohol, activities health officials frequently threaten arrest over. Police raids on party venues are daily news fodder, with more than 100 people busted at a bar’s event on Koh Phangan just Tuesday night.
“What right do they have to conceal their information? This is obviously a violation of the emergency decree,” Phich Mongkolchaiyasilp wrote online. “Blue collar workers are starving because they want to help the public to control the virus while some people just go partying and spread it. Don’t ask for our mercy.”
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