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Tourists not wearing masks face tough talk from Phuket authorities

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Phuket authorities vow to take legal action as foreigners frequently ignore face mask rules. (via Redbubble)

Expressing frustration against tourists that disregard Covid-19 safety rules and regulations, authorities in Phuket say they will take legal action against foreigners who don’t wear their face masks in public. Phuket’s immigration chief called on authorities to strictly enforce the regulations set out by the local Communicable Disease Committee that required that masks be worn at all times in public.

Phuket has repeatedly attempted to remind tourists and foreigners on the island of the face mask mandate but a lot of their efforts have fallen on deaf ears as many foreigners ignore the rules and refuse to wear masks in public.

Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew even went so far as to call a meeting with representatives from 8 countries to implore them it clearly communicate to their citizens travelling in Thailand the requirement to wear masks. He has now expanded that plea to representatives in 22 different countries total, asking leaders to put out a notice in their native languages to explain Phuket’s mask mandate.

Now they’re cracking down even further in an attempt to get compliance. An order was issued on January 7 by the governor that unless people are eating, drinking, or exercising, they must wear a face mask anytime they are out in public. Seeing this rule go widely ignored, the Phuket governor is forming an operational team led by local police that will be responsible for enforcing mask regulations and checking people to make sure they’re wearing their masks and following guidelines.

Enforcement teams will focus on key tourist locations that get busy and run high risks of transmission, especially areas in Patong and main party drag Bangla Road. And, according to the immigration boss, when they catch people maskless in public, punishment will be stepped up.

“Violators will be arrested and prosecuted… The Phuket Health Office has been assigned to file relevant complaints. Examples must be set.”

While the law allows for large fines and long stretches of jail time – the Communicable Diseases Act allows a penalty of up to 20,000 baht and one year in jail, while Emergency Decree can be sentenced to up to two years in jail and up to a 40,000 baht fine – the majority of violators have received little more than a slap on the wrist or, literally, a few push-ups, in most cases.

Officials in Phuket are talking tough about cracking down on violators not wearing face masks, but it remains to be seen if any actual punitive action will be taken this time.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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    Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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