Mask mandate to ease in June

Mask mandate to ease in June

Removal in open spaces to be allowed

The Public Health Ministry will ease the rules on mandatory face mask wearing from mid-June by allowing people to take them off in open spaces -- provided they do not have any underlying conditions -- except for places that are poorly ventilated or at big social gatherings.

Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit, the ministry's permanent secretary, said the Covid-19 situation is improving and the ministry is confident about entering the endemic phase as planned.

"Public health agencies have to carry out social management through a living with Covid-19 scheme. In the middle of June, the ministry will issue new face-mask guidelines," he told a seminar in Surat Thani.

Under the new guidelines, face mask wearing will be recommended for at-risk groups, those staying indoors where there is a poor ventilation system, and at large gatherings, he said.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that declaring Covid-19 as endemic would allow people to resume their daily activities with fewer restrictions and that those infected with the virus would be able to continue with their normal daily activities.

"Other countries have already removed the face mask mandate but we still wear them to guard against the virus spreading. This has improved the situation and the number of fatalities is also in decline. This is a sign the pandemic is becoming endemic," Mr Anutin was quoted as saying.

However, Dr Jiraruj Chomchoey, a paediatrician who specialises in respiratory diseases at Maharat Nakhon Ratchasima Hospital, issued a Facebook post stating there should be safe spaces for young children despite the easing of the face mask rule.

He said that because young kids have not been vaccinated, it may not be safe for them if the rule is lifted entirely.

"There is no vaccine available for them. So is it really safe for them if other people are allowed to take their masks off, even at schools, nurseries or other venues where these children explore?" he wrote.

He also noted that face masks should not be worn in any country by children if they are under two years old, urging parents to ensure their offspring follow the guidelines appropriate to their age.

Meanwhile, the cabinet yesterday resolved to extend the emergency decree to curb the pandemic for another two months, said government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana. He said it will be enforced until July 31 when all the criteria set by the Ministry of Public Health for an endemic disease are expected to have been met.

"The extension aims to help related agencies integrate their work in addressing Covid-19," he said.

Sunaiyana Kitkasetpaisan, general manager of ZP Therapeutics, a division of Zuellig Pharma and the official Moderna partner in Thailand, said the recent approval of the use of the Moderna vaccine for children aged 6-11 years will boost the country's battle against the virus. She said the company welcomed the move by the Thai Food and Drug Administration, which previously banned children under 12 from receiving Moderna shots. Kids aged 6-11 can now receive two shots 28 days apart.

The country registered 36 additional Covid-19 fatalities and 4,144 new cases in the previous 24 hours, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said yesterday.

But the new case numbers did not include 2,785 positive results from antigen tests, which would raise the total to 6,929.

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