After spending more than 29 months tackling COVID-19, Thailand is now busy preparing to launch its post-pandemic era.
Here, Thai PBS World offers an overview of the latest developments in the country’s transition from pandemic to normality.
On June 23, the mandatory wearing of face masks in public was scrapped. This means we no longer have to wear masks outdoors in uncrowded places like public parks – though most Thais are still wearing masks outdoors on a voluntary basis.
And health authorities recommend that people continue wearing masks indoors around people who are not from the same household. Removing masks indoors is only advisable if they are dining, exercising, performing or receiving beauty treatments, etc.
Authorities have also given public services and venues like shopping malls the freedom to issue their own rules. For instance, the BTS Skytrain operator requires commuters to wear masks at all times.
However, the Public Health Ministry has strongly advised people with underlying health conditions to wear a mask – especially if they are not fully vaccinated. Those who have been exposed to the virus are now only required to follow the ordinary protection protocol instead of having to quarantine.
Return of normality
With authorities signaling that the COVID-19 crisis is coming to an end, businesses have resumed their operations and public life is getting back to normal. Eateries are busy again and customers are even queuing up outside popular restaurants and shops. Mass-transit systems are crowded during rush hour and Bangkok’s traffic nightmare is back.
The work-from-home mode is fading as more workers are summoned back to the office.
And students across the country are back in class after spending several semesters studying online at home.
From July 1, nights out will also become longer for the party crowd. Pubs and bars will be allowed to serve alcohol until 2am for the first time since 2020 as more restrictions are eased and opening times return to normal.
Travel restrictions lifted
Also from July 1, foreign visitors will no longer need a Thailand Pass to enter the country. Thais have been exempted since the beginning of June.
The Thailand Pass system was launched last November as the country began slowly opening up to the world. To register, travelers needed proof of vaccination, a negative RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure, plus COVID insurance of at least US$10,000. Thai tourism operators had been urging the government to scrap the system for months as it was seen as a significant barrier for travel to Thailand.
The end of Thailand Pass on July 1 means foreign tourists will no longer face the expense of getting tested, purchasing COVID insurance, and uploading various documents online before traveling to the Kingdom.
Though no pre-registration and submission of documents is necessary, Thai authorities will still conduct random health and vaccination checks on arrivals from July 1. However, travelers will no longer have to undergo tests on arrival unless they are showing COVID symptoms. Airports will also scrap temperature screening of passengers.
Since mid-June, recorded daily infections in Thailand have fallen below 2,400. Meanwhile, the daily death toll has never risen higher than 21.
These figures suggest that we are entering the post-pandemic period, as Thais have learned to protect themselves with vaccination, face masks, hand washing, and social distancing. Most people in Thailand have received their first two COVID shots, while more than a third have had a booster jab.
Yet, just as Thailand looks set to finally beat the pandemic, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul tested positive for COVID-19 – despite having received no less than six shots of the vaccine.
By Thai PBS World’s General Desk