Phuket Says People Must Still Wear Masks in Public

Phuket authorities have rescinded the order relaxing mandatory mask-wearing after Provincial Governor Narong Woonciew issued and signed a revision on Thursday.

The revision did not repeal the original May 31 order but replaced a section on its wording and now asks people to wear a face mask or cloth mask when outside the dwelling, personal vehicle or in public to limit disease outbreaks.

Phuket first announced that healthy visitors and residents no longer had to comply with the mandatory mask-wearing if they were outdoors, on beaches, parks and playgrounds.

On Thursday, Phuket’s governor signed a provincial ordinance to exempt people from wearing face masks in certain places and under certain conditions, further easing the island’s Covid-19 restrictions. The decree was set to take effect immediately.

According to the order, mask-wearing remained mandatory in places that are airtight, poorly ventilated, or where large crowds gather for certain activities.

However, Phuket’s government decided to revise the order following widespread confusion over if the island had dropped the outdoor mask-wearing.

Governor Narong explained that the first order had relaxed restrictions on mask-wearing in certain areas and under certain conditions, but it did not rescind the requirement.

He clarified the order allows those exercising outdoors, going to the beach and visiting public parks or other places to take off their masks only if they can stay at least two meters apart.

Also, as an exception, people can remove their masks when eating or drinking and when revealing their faces to confirm their identity with government agencies.

As May 31 order states, anyone who violates this order can be punished under the 2015 Communicable Disease Act’s Section 51, facing fines of up to 20,000 baht. By breaching the new ruling, people can also be considered violators of the 2005 emergency decree and be punished with up to two years in prison or fined up to 40,000 baht.

Meanwhile, Bangkok is expected to impose a similar order. The capital’s new governor Chadchart Sittipunt spoke about Phuket authorities’ decision, saying that the Covid-19 situation had improved.

He stated that he also wanted Bangkok’s residents and visitors to take off their face masks as soon as possible.

However, the former Transport Minister said he would have to discuss the plan with experts in health management and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA)’s health department.

Chadchart added that he would also talk to officials about extending opening hours for public parks and the recently opened nighttime venues to reduce attendees’ density.