Chadchart sets sights on masks
City eyes Phuket's lead on Covid rules
Bangkok plans to authorise the removal of face masks as soon as possible if the notion is approved by local health and medical bodies, city governor Chadchart Sittipunt said on Thursday.
His remarks came in response to a new move by Phuket to relax its face mask-wearing mandate and other related Covid-19 measures.
The health and medical departments will be consulted on the matter, Mr Chadchart said, adding he believed it is time to move forward and focus on reviving the economy.
"Bangkok's overall Covid-19 situation appears to be not much different from that of Phuket, so we will base the decision on the face mask-wearing mandate mainly on medical facts and data rather than feelings," he said. "A decision will be made as soon as possible."
More discussions will be held regarding extending the closing time of night entertainment venues in the capital to help ease overcrowding, he added.
As of Wednesday, night venues in 14 green-zone and 17 blue-zone provinces have been allowed to remain open and serve alcohol until midnight, said Dr Sumanee Wacharasint, assistant spokeswoman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
In the CCSA's colour-coded Covid-19 zoning, green zones indicate the situation is stable whereas businesses in blue zones are freer to promote tourism-related activities.
Phuket, one of the blue zones, has become the first province to officially allow people to take off face masks when they are in open public spaces provided they keep a distance of at least 2 metres from other people, such as at the beach or in a public park.
Phuket's Public Relations Office on Thursday published an order by the provincial administrative office, dated May 31, saying that while mask-wearing remains a crucial part of Covid-19 controls, the mandate has been relaxed in four situations.
Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, president of the Phuket Tourism Council, explained them as being: when people are eating or drinking; identifying themselves to a state official, such as at the airport; doing physical exercise in the open air; and being in an open-air public area such as a beach, public park or sports ground, provided social distancing measures are respected.
Don Limnontapisit, leader of a community-based tourism group in Phuket's old town, said the order is aimed primarily at communicating with locals and tourists to improve their understanding that face masks are still compulsory except under limited conditions.
The point is that the punishment for failing to wear a face mask won't apply in these situations, he said, adding they are still mandatory in crowded areas.
Soi Bang La, one of the best-known night spots on the popular resort island, meanwhile, roared back to life on Wednesday night when pubs, bars, karaoke shops and other night entertainment venues reopened after a two-year hiatus.
About 90% of the 300 businesses in this area have reopened with only a fraction still under renovation, said Wirawit Khreausombat, president of an association of business operators in Phuket's Patong beach area.
"Our concern is that closing at midnight is a bit out of context here and doesn't serve the tourism-dependent economy of Phuket well," he said.
Authorities are teaming up to randomly check that Covid-19 safety standards are being observed, said Dr Sumanee, adding some 19,767 air passengers arrived in Thailand on Wednesday.
Thailand on Thursday recorded 34 new Covid-19 deaths, bringing the total to 8,383, or about 0.11% of all infections in the same period.