Thais drop guard as fears ease
Mask-wearing falling out of favour as domestic Covid-19 cases remain low
As the number of new Covid-19 infections in Thailand has fallen and the third phase of lockdown easing begins today, some people have begun to let their guard down by ignoring social-distancing and public-health warnings, experts say.
"I now only wear a mask when entering convenience stores and using public transport, but I've already stopped wearing masks when meeting friends. There is no outbreak in our area and we're all symptom-free, so it's safe enough," a 25-year-old man who identified himself as "Poon" told the Bangkok Post.
Poon said the low rate of infection and the small number of deaths from the coronavirus in Thailand has given him the confidence to slowly return to normal life.
"The situation in Thailand is not as scary as it is in other countries. I hope the government completely lifts the lockdown on all businesses and activities soon. People are more afraid of starvation than the virus," he said.
Tae, a 22-year-old who lives in Suan Luang district, said the public's vigilance against the disease, in his opinion, has gradually dropped although people continue to wear masks.
"Many people I know say they are not scared of the virus any more. They wear masks just because the rules say so. One of my friends recently held a birthday party at his house and many people went there," he said.
Last Thursday, over 1,000 people in Pattaya ignored the curfew and other safety measures as they stood in line to wait for food donations in the middle of the night, as a Norwegian Church in Pattaya prepared to offer 2,000 sets of food and essentials for locals at 9am.
The Bangkok Post recently surveyed a few open-air markets in Bangkok and found one did not have a temperature checkpoint for customers and did not maintain a distance of one metre between vendors and customers as required by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).
"At first everyone strictly complied with the BMA's requirements, but as time passes people have begun to ignore rules. Some vendors don't even wear masks now," said one vendor who asked not to be named.
Dave Allen, a foreigner who lives in Yasothon province, wrote to the Bangkok Post, saying he has witnessed fewer people wearing masks and observing social distancing in the province.
"It seems complacency is acceptable in Yasothon in addressing non-compliance. There are a number of areas where there is no use of masks or improper use -- not covering the mouth or nose. I have tried to bring these concerns forward but it seems to be occurring on a daily basis with no enforcement," he wrote.
Mr Allen claimed that when he asked residents why they did not wear masks, they replied "I am not sick", or "I cannot breathe properly when wearing them".
Mr Allen said he asked local and government agencies to do something but received no response.
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) yesterday four new coronavirus cases and no new deaths, taking the total number of infections to 3,081 with 57 deaths since January.
CCSA assistant spokeswoman Panprapa Yongtrakul said while the number of Covid-19 infections has dropped over the last two weeks, it doesn't mean people should let their guard down.
"It is too early to be complacent. Dealing with the virus is a marathon, not a sprint," she said.
The dean of the Faculty of Medical Science at Siriraj Hospital, Prasit Wattanapha, last week also warned of the risk of a second wave of coronavirus infections if social distancing practices are relaxed.
Dr Prasit, who is advising the CCSA, said that every time a person goes outdoors, he or she is at risk of being infected or infecting other people when visiting congested places.
The only way to protect oneself, as lockdown restrictions are lifted, is to wear a face mask at all times while outdoors and wash hands with sanitiser gel regularly, he said.
Asked when the situation will return to normal in Thailand, he said it will take 18-24 months for a vaccine to become available.