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Thailand is introducing a “endemic sandbox” concept which includes relaxed measures including no more face mask mandates in some areas ahead of plans by the government to declare Covid-19 as endemic by July.
“We are starting the endemic sandbox in areas that are ready such as Bangkok as the daily number of new cases in the city is decreasing and its vaccination rate is high,” Anutin Charnvirakul, the deputy prime minister and health minister, said on Thursday.
He said the overall daily number of new Covid cases in Thailand continued to decrease two weeks after the long Songkran holiday period in April and the situation is supporting the government’s move to declare Covid as endemic by July.
Three related agencies that are under the supervision of the Bhumjaithai Party and the deputy prime minister including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports will be in charge of introducing the new scheme. He did not clarify when the program will be officially launched.
Under the scheme, Covid restriction measures in some areas of Bangkok such as parks and public transportations will be more relaxed including no more facemask mandate.
Businesses and activities that were deemed to be at high risk of spreading the virus, such as pubs, bars and karaoke venues, will be allowed to reopen again.
Currently, people in Bangkok could still face a fine of up to 20,000 baht for not wearing facemask in public or crowded areas, according to an order made by Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang back in April 2021. The order is based on the emergency decree which is still in effect until the end of May and could be extended again.
All schools will also resume normal operation under the endemic sandbox without the shutting down of classroom because of a Covid case and the weekly routine antigen tests will be lifted to testing only those that have high risk contact.
Thailand reported 9,790 new Covid cases on Thursday compared to 20,420 cases on March 1.
Bangkok is still reporting around 3,000 cases per day but less than 20 per cent of the hospital beds that were prepared for severe Covid cases in the capital were occupied in the city on May 4.
The city’s vaccination rate is also the highest in the country with more than 90 per cent of its registered and eligible population have received two doses of Covid vaccines.