Thais 'willing' to wear masks in public
Prime Minister 'appreciates' coronavirus-protection effort
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed satisfaction over news that most Thais are voluntarily wearing masks for protection against Covid-19 despite the mask mandate being lifted on Thursday.
Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, government spokesman, on Saturday said the PM expressed concern about the health of the public as coronavirus infection risks remained.
The Department of Disease Control (DDC) recommends that people with underlying conditions, the elderly and pregnant women who have yet to get boosters keep wearing masks.
Those who are healthy can discard the mask when alone, exercising, eating, drinking or in an open space where social distancing can be practised, the DDC said.
The country registered 2,378 more Covid-19 cases and 17 new fatalities during the previous 24 hours, the Public Health Ministry announced on Sunday morning.
Education Minister Trinuch Thienthong, meanwhile, says masks are still required at education institutions, except for when attending outdoor activities.
The ministry is concerned about children who are too young to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
However, Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt on Saturday showed that people can now take off their masks in open spaces by doing his morning run at Lumpini Park without one.
Since the government lifted the mask mandate, people can now go mask-free outside while staying one metre away from others, Mr Chadchart told the media after his daily jog.
People can simply keep their masks with them and only put them on when meeting others, he said.
"The law has changed, but we shouldn't take the situation for granted as the Omicron variant remains active," he said.
On Friday, one day after the national mask mandate was lifted, Mr Chadchart signed an announcement making mask-wearing in open spaces a personal choice.
As the Covid-19 situation has gradually improved, restrictive measures have started to ease to enable people to resume economic activities.
To drive the economy while easing inter-provincial travel, the government has come up with plans to ensure Thailand's readiness in the post-pandemic phase.
Migrant workers are now able to work across the capital under certain regulations.
In addition, the legal hours for the sale of alcohol at restaurants and entertainment venues have been extended to 2am as approved by a recent Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) meeting.
Other businesses, such as barber shops, beauty salons, nail salons, massage parlours, tattoo shops, gyms, theatres, folk shows and saunas are allowed to operate under disease control measures, the CCSA said. Activities with large gatherings of people, like sports tournaments, require permission from district offices, it said.
Violators may be liable to a fine of up to 20,000 baht under Section 51 of the 2015 Communicable disease Act and a maximum term of two years in jail and/or a fine of up to 40,000 baht for defying the emergency decree, it said. Many people, particularly local vendors and foreign tourists, including those in Chiang Mai, for instance, were yesterday seen outdoors without a face mask on.
Several vendors at Mahachai Market, a major fresh market in Samut Sakhon, were seen comfortable without their masks while working there.
In Yala, however, many people were seen wearing face masks when going out.
In other news, Dr Opass Putcharoen, head of Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital's emerging disease clinic in Bangkok, said he recently observed a steady rise in the number of new Covid-19 patients.
The good news is the number of patients with severe symptoms is not rapidly rising even after the mask-wearing mandate is lifted, he said. However, he said he believes the number of patients infected with the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants is rising and more than that reported by health authorities.