BANGKOK: The Thai government has lifted its mask mandate with immediate effect as the COVID-19 situation in the country improved, according to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
"The wearing of hygienic or cloth masks shall be voluntary," read the announcement, which was published in the Royal Gazette on Thursday (Jun 23).
The lifting of the mask requirement applies to both indoor and outdoor spaces, an official source at the Public Health Ministry told CNA.
However, the ministry still advised people to wear masks at crowded places or areas, where social distancing is not possible or the ventilation is not good, according to the announcement in the Royal Gazette.
For those who are at high risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms or death such as people aged 60 and above, pregnant women, and persons with cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or chronic kidney disease, they are still advised to keep wearing masks properly whenever there are other people around.
The same advice applies to COVID-19-infected individuals and high-risk contacts as well as people with respiratory diseases.
According to the announcement, the public is encouraged to consider the benefits of proper mask wearing when it comes to preventing the transmission of diseases, including COVID-19 and other respiratory tract infections, and reducing other health risks.
Besides easing the mask requirement, the announcement added that entertainment venues, pubs, bars and eateries selling alcohol are allowed to operate with adherence to the law and disease prevention measures.
Before this, the businesses could only operate and serve alcohol until midnight.
The announcement on Thursday also stated that the COVID-19 situation in Thailand has improved and that the numbers of infections and related deaths have declined.
As a result, various restrictions and measures have been relaxed to allow the public to live and carry out social and economic activities in a manner that is close to normal, it added.
On Friday, the Department of Disease Control reported 2,313 new COVID-19 infections and 16 deaths. Since Jan 1, Thailand has recorded 8,861 deaths related to COVID-19.