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Mask no longer a must in Thailand

BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand announced yesterday it would drop rules requiring people to wear masks outdoors and no longer require foreign visitors to register before travel, as COVID-19 cases fall and the kingdom seeks to lure tourists back.

Face masks have been compulsory in public in Thailand, including outdoors, since mid-2021 when the Delta variant was rampant.

But as the pandemic has subsided, the tourism-dependent kingdom has gradually relaxed COVID-19 restrictions in a bid to boost visitor numbers.

Thailand’s relaxation on facemasks comes after similar moves by regional peers including Cambodia and Singapore.

Spokesman for the Thai COVID-19 taskforce Taweesin Visanuyothin said wearing masks outside would become voluntary, but was still recommended in crowded areas, entertainment venues and on public transport.

Commuters wearing protective face masks walk along Pratunam pier in Bangkok. PHOTO: AFP

He said the Health Ministry would announce further details of the mask relaxation, including when it would come into force.

On July 1 the government will also end the “Thailand Pass” system, under which foreign tourists had to register and show proof of vaccination and health insurance before they could fly to the kingdom. Visitors will have to carry vaccine certificates or take COVID-19 tests on arrival.

The move is seen as an attempt to bolster the sputtering economy, which has seen growth hammered by the pandemic and living costs rising.

There were more than 1.6 million foreign tourist arrivals during the first six months of 2022, with foreign tourist receipts logged at THB99.7 billion, according to government data.

This compares with around 40 million foreign tourists visiting Thailand in 2019, the last year before the pandemic.

Daily COVID-19 cases have hovered below 3,500 in recent weeks, with the number of deaths registering below 50 a day for a month.

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