Thailand downgrades COVID-19 threat, lifts emergency decree
BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s government will lift an emergency decree it imposed in March 2020 to battle the coronavirus, officials said Friday, as it relaxes most pandemic restrictions.
From Oct. 1, foreign visitors will no longer be required to show proof of being vaccinated, and people found to be infected will no longer need to quarantine.
The emergency decree, which has been renewed repeatedly despite opposition, will not be extended at the end of this month, officials said. The decree, which allowed the government to take actions such as curtail movements, limit crowd sizes and close private establishments, was also used against anti-government protesters.
“The overall trend globally of the COVID situation is improving. The number of new cases is in decline and the number of deaths is falling,” said Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesperson for the government’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration. He said the center will also halt operations and be dissolved.
“At present, the public and businesses can live and move forward with economic activities,” Taweesin said.
He said the changes result from the Public Health Ministry’s downgrading the status of COVID-19 from a dangerous communicable disease to an infectious disease under surveillance.
The center reported 752 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and nine deaths. It said the percentage of hospital beds allocated for coronavirus patients that are occupied has fallen to 8.3% from 15.8% in July.
“We may have small waves after this. And we will ask the public to continue practicing general preventive measures, including continuing to wear masks in public,” although they will not be mandatory, Taweesin said.
Thailand’s huge, lucrative tourism industry was devastated by local and worldwide measures to contain the pandemic. So far this year, it has seen arrivals rebound with 5.2 million visitors to date.