Thai Public Health Ministry backtracks on its proposal to remove mandatory facial masks, says was a misunderstanding

PHOTO: Thairath

Bangkok –

The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Public Health denied the Ministry had proposed to cancel mandatory wearing of facial masks in parks and concerts as reported across Thai media yesterday, March 16th, calling it a “misunderstanding.”

Permanent Secretary Dr. Kiattipoom Wongrachit clarified today, March 17th, following the news stating that the Ministry of Public Health would propose a plan to remove wearing facial masks to the Center of the Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Friday that it was a misunderstanding. He said that he did not say such a proposal during a press conference yesterday.

According to his statement, he only stated that the Ministry would only introduce the four-month timeframe of shifting the Covid-19 pandemic to an endemic disease and plans to prevent and control the disease among the risk groups, especially the ‘608’ groups (the elders, patients with severe health conditions, and pregnant women).

Regarding the issue of removing facial masks, Dr. Kiattipoom continued that if the endemic plan was approved and properly implemented, other measures may be relaxed in the future which may possibly include the mandatory facial masks in some areas such as public areas like parks and outside. But it was not something that could be issued immediately and would not be discussed at this week’s major CCSA meeting.

“If everything went according to the plans and measures, we could eventually call an end to the great pandemic and end all restrictions and mandates. However, it must be subject to the condition that there were no more severe variants. We never intended to lift everything at once like some countries and will take things slowly and cautiously,” the Permanent Secretary added.

TPN notes that there is no “law” around wearing masks, as that requires Parliament. However, the mandates, which are in effect in every province and Bangkok in Thailand, fall under emergency health measures and mandates in effect from provincial governors under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior and can, contrary to some belief, lead to fines under Covid-19 rules. Technically, masks are required in all public areas, even if completely alone outside, including driving a motorbike. In terms of a car, if there are more than two people in a vehicle, face masks must be worn under the current mandates.

The mandates have been widely accepted by most Thais without complaint, notes TPN media, but have seen increasing complaints, anger, and criticism from foreigners, especially tourists in terms of outdoor mandates, whose countries have completely lifted mask mandates and may not be used to the heat. In tourist-heavy areas, like Pattaya, Phuket, or Samui, mask-wearing compliance has, based on local observance and social media commentary, fallen significantly, although remains strong in other parts of the country.

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National News Writer at The Pattaya News from September 2020 to October, 2022. Born and raised in Bangkok, Nop enjoys telling stories of her hometown through her words and pictures. Her educational experience in the United States and her passion for journalism have shaped her genuine interests in society, politics, education, culture, and art.