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Health ministry clarifies lifting of mask mandate in “designated areas only”

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: iStock

Not so fast, says the Public Health Ministry, responding to news that Thailand’s mask mandate could be lifted next month. Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit has issued a clarification that this could apply in certain areas only. According to Kiattiphum, Thailand’s Covid-19 situation has improved quicker than expected and officials believe the virus can be downgraded to endemic as planned. At that point, measures will need to be in place to protect the public and ensure they can safely live with Covid-19.

Kiattiphum says cancelling the mask mandate is one option, but there will be some exceptions if this happens. The mandate may only be lifted in areas where infection rates are low and where most people are fully vaccinated, according to a Bangkok Post report. However, the health ministry says certain high-risk groups, including those over the age of 60, people with underlying health conditions, and pregnant women, may still need to mask up in certain situations. This rule could also apply to everyone in high-density or very crowded spaces.

According to Dr Taweesap Siraprapasiri from the Department of Disease Control, the mask mandate may initially only be lifted in 31 provinces, including the 14 newly classified “green zones” and 17 tourism “blue zone” provinces, including Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai, and Chon Buri. Furthermore, at least 60% of the population will need to be fully vaccinated, including with at least 1 booster dose.

Health officials are urging those who have yet to receive a booster dose to come forward, particularly if they belong to a high-risk group. Dr Prasit Watanapa from Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital points out that as people in other countries receive their boosters, governments are lifting mask mandates and easing entry requirements as they prepare to declare the virus endemic.

As a result, Prasit says Thailand could potentially cancel the Thailand Pass for foreign arrivals from June 1, but this will require more widespread vaccination across the kingdom.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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