Phuket eases mask-wearing, Bangkok to follow

Phuket eases mask-wearing, Bangkok to follow

Tourists relax on Patong beach in Phuket. Face masks are no longer required on Phuket beaches, where people can stay at least 2 metres apart. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)
Tourists relax on Patong beach in Phuket. Face masks are no longer required on Phuket beaches, where people can stay at least 2 metres apart. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)

Phuket has allowed healthy people to take off their face masks while in open-air places, beaches, public parks and stadiums, and Bangkok will follow suit as soon as possible.

Phuket governor Narong Woonciew on Thursday signed a provincial order to exempt people in this southern island province from wearing a face mask while in certain places and in certain situations, further easing Covid-19 restrictions.

The order was based on a resolution made in a meeting of the provincial communicable disease committee.

Under the order, mask-wearing is still required to reduce the risk of the virus spreading, especially in enclosed places which are not well ventilated or with a large number of people gathering for some activities.

However, mandatory mask-wearing is exempted when people are eating or drinking, showing their faces to confirm their identities to state authorities, exercising in an open area, and while at a beach, a public park and other places where people can stay at least two metres apart.

The order is effective from June 1 until further notice.

People who violate this order may be liable to a fine of up to 20,000 baht under Section 51 of the Communicable Disease Act of 2015. They may also be construed as violating the emergency decree of 2005 and liable to a jail term of not exceeding two years and/or a fine of up to 40,000 baht.

Don Limnanthapisit, chairman of the Muang Kao Phuket community, said he did not see anything new in the order, except the exemptions.

The people in general said they understand well that the provincial communicable disease committee is still concerned about Covid-19.

Tanes Tantipiriyakit, chair of the Phuket Tourism Council, said what was new in the latest order was that people were allowed to be free of masks at beaches, parks and stadiums if they were at least two metres apart.

In Bangkok, new governor Chadchart Sittipunt, when asked to comment on the Phuket decision, said he also wanted Bangkok people to be able to dispense with masks as soon as possible, and the Covid-19 situation had improved.

However, he would have to consult with health experts and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's health department.

Mr Chadchart said he would also have talks with officials about extending the opening hours of public parks, pubs, bars and karaoke places, saying that doing this could reduce the density of people attending those places.

Dr Kiatiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary for public health, said in an interview last month that the Covid-19 restrictions were expected to be eased off in mid-June.

Mandatory mask-wearing would be limited to people with underlying illnesses, the elderly and pregnant women and would still apply to people in poorly ventilated places and crowded areas, he said.

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