Visa Global Travel Plan Survey in recent weeks shows that 63% of foreign tourists come to Thailand seeking relaxation from modern life and particularly identified the country’s massage parlour industry, hospitality sector, restaurants and cultural attractions as key reasons for choosing to visit the kingdom. The scrapping of the face mask mandate from mid-June will be a very welcome development although some face mask requirements will remain until the disease is declared endemic which is now expected to happen by July 1st.
The Ministry of Public Health has indicated that the national face mask mandate, introduced last year at the height of the pandemic crisis, will be rescinded from the middle of June. The move will be seen as a boost for the country’s foreign tourism, entertainment and hospitality industry as the kingdom aims to return to normal by July 1st next although regulations announced last week by the ministry suggest that staff in bars and massage parlours will still be required to wear face masks when interacting closely with customers.
Thailand, on Tuesday, announced the abolition of the mandatory national requirement to wear face masks from the middle of June.
However, in a briefing, Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit told reporters that this does not mean all requirements to wear masks were being rescinded.
The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Public Health said that his ministry would still be recommending that face masks be worn by those at high risk such as the elderly and those with underlying illnesses.
Ministry official says face masks still to be worn in spaces lacking ventilation and by those at risk
He also suggested that face masks should be worn in closed spaces where there was a lack of ventilation and in activities or at events where large crowds are gathered.
It is understood that the current regime where a fine of up to ฿20,000 for non-compliance and the mandatory wearing of face masks in public places will be lifted by mid-June or over the next three weeks.
This legal provision was introduced in Thailand early in 2021.
The top official at the Ministry of Public Health who has been seen as the driving force behind plans to make the disease endemic in Thailand by July 1st was speaking in Surat Thani.
He also recommended that pregnant women continue to wear face masks as protection against any possible health threat.
Situation improving faster than expected
Dr Kiattiphum said that the pandemic situation in Thailand was alleviating itself faster than expected and indicated that the country is on course to achieve its objective of declaring endemic status by July 1st next.
In recent weeks, Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul had expressed a determination to keep mask mandates in some format and had tasked officials at the ministry to examine how this could be achieved.
The comments by the top ministry official suggest that the blanket face mask mandate will now be removed in any event.
This had been posing a problem for incoming foreign tourists from western countries where face mask-wearing has, by and large, been discarded in recent months.
Singapore scrapped its mask mandate in mid-March and recent surveys in the kingdom have suggested that the public, who strongly embraced face mask-wearing during the crisis, are now more relaxed about discarding the requirement as confidence returns with things beginning to return to normal.
Face masks in massage parlours as foreign tourists identify ‘relaxation’ as a reason for visiting Thailand
Last week, when announcing the reopening of nightlife and entertainment venues from June 1st next, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) top spokesman Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin made it clear that as well as weekly testing of staff they should continue to wear face masks, particularly with regard to massage parlour activities.
‘The wearing of face masks is required for services involving close contact between staff and customers, such as those offered in a massage parlour,’ he explained.
Thailand, according to the Visa Global Travel Plan Survey of destinations in Southeast Asia, conducted in recent weeks, among those who visit the country, is seen primarily as a holiday destination for foreign tourists seeking relaxation from the stress involved in the pace of hectic, modern life.
48% of respondents cited relaxation and activities that helped them relieve stress as the key reasons for visiting Thailand while a further 25% identified relaxation in addition to adventure activities.
James Morris is a pename for an international writer based in Bangkok who works on various international news media. He is a sub editor with the Thai Examiner news website since it began in 2015. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.
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