Face mask-wearing mandate to be lifted 'only in certain areas'

Face mask-wearing mandate to be lifted 'only in certain areas'

Students wear masks to protect themselves from Covid-19 at Wat Rajabopit School in Bangkok this month. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Students wear masks to protect themselves from Covid-19 at Wat Rajabopit School in Bangkok this month. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

The Public Health Ministry has issued a clarification about news regarding the lifting of the mask mandate next month, saying the mask requirement may be eased only in some designated areas.

Permanent secretary of the Public Health Ministry, Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit, on Wednesday said the Covid-19 situation has improved faster than expected, so the pandemic may be downgraded to an endemic disease as planned.

The ministry then must step up measures to ensure people can live with Covid-19 safely, he added.

The lifting of the mask requirement is one option but the ministry does not plan to do so entirely yet, Dr Kiattiphum said. Indoor and outdoor masking will be eased in certain areas with lower infection rates and well-prepared treatment systems and where most locals are fully vaccinated.

The mask regulations may be adjusted around mid-June, Dr Kiattiphum said.

However, the high-risk 608 group -- which comprises people aged 60 years and above, those with underlying diseases and pregnant women -- may be required to put on masks in certain areas for their own safety, as well as people in high-density and crowded areas, he added.

Dr Taweesap Siraprapasiri, a senior official with the Department of Disease Control (DDC), said the relaxing of face mask measures may start in 31 provinces which he said includes 14 provinces designated as green zones in the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)'s colour-coded zoning plus 17 provinces in blue zones including Bangkok, Chon Buri, Chiang Mai and Phuket.

Another condition is that 60% of the population in the provinces should have three Covid-19 vaccines, he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of Mahidol University's Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, urged that 50% of the population receive booster doses, notably those in the high-risk 608 group, before the declaration of endemic status.

Dr Prasit said that as most people from foreign countries have received Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, their governments have also started to ease mask requirements in certain areas, such as open-air venues.

As the Omicron variant is not as deadly as other variants, he said many countries have eased entry measures including vaccine requirements, before declaring the disease endemic.

As such, the Thailand Pass registration may no longer be required for foreigners from June 1, but vaccines must be administered broadly, according to Dr Prasit.

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