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Bangkok Bars to Reopen, Face Masks Dropped in ‘Endemic Sandbox’ Plan

Thailand Pass to end for Thai nationals this month under Health Ministry proposal

THailand Pass Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok

Bangkok bars and nightlife would reopen legally and the city’s face mask mandate dropped under a “endemic sandbox” scheme proposed to the Public Health Ministry.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul also suggested Thursday that the reviled Thailand Pass system would be ended in May – but only for Thai nationals.

Thailand, the land of hubs, is now also the land of sandboxes and officials again are talking about a confined area to test lower Covid-19 restrictions. Bangkok, with its plummeting case rate, is ripe for such a program.

Ministry Permanent Secretary Kiattiphum Wongrajit said the Covid-19 situation in Bangkok has improved significantly due to a wide vaccination rollout and measures such as home isolation and outpatient programs. Most Bangkok residents are fully vaccinated, with around 60% having had at least one booster dose. These figures suggested that Bangkok might be ready to shift its strategy to managing Covid-19 as an endemic disease.

Kiattiphum said that the ministry is working with city hall to gradually lift Covid-19 restrictions. The shift will prioritize management in high infection risk areas such as pubs, bars, public parks, and public transportation, allowing for a more gradual transition to endemic Covid management.

Anutin said the “endemic sandbox” disease rules in some areas of Bangkok, such as parks and public transportation, would eased. This includes ending face mask mandates.

“High-risk” businesses, such as pubs, bars and karaoke clubs, also would be allowed to reopen legally. Currently most city bars already are open, using loopholes to reopen as “restaurants”.

All schools also would resume normal operation and not shut down classrooms due to a report of a Covid-19 case. Testing requirements also would be eased.

Nationally, Anutin also said he would propose that the government end Thailand Pass registration for Thai nationals returning to the country before dropping it for everyone.

He said that the fatality rate for Covid-19 patients was falling and the bed-occupancy rate was only at about 20%. The country also has enough medicine to treat patients and the infection rate among arrivals was at 0.001%.

If the Covid-19 situation remained as controllable, restrictions would be relaxed to allow for redefinition of Covid-19 as an endemic disease, Anutin said.

After Covid-19 becomes endemic, the government would no longer need to maintain the state of emergency to facilitate its control of the disease, Anutin said.

Anutin and other public-health officials were spectacularly wrong in predicting a post-Songkran surge in daily cases to 100,000. In fact, the official case count has plummeted and the government has stopped reporting positive antigen tests.

Only 7,705 new official cases were reported on Friday, along with 62 deaths. About 3,000 of the new cases were in the greater Bangkok area.

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