Thailand drops outdoor mask mandate... hooray
Although it was already somewhat sporadically enforced there was nationwide mask mandate in all public places throughout the entire country. I can't say exactly when this began but it has been in effect for a very long time. Well that all officially came to an end on the 15th of June. Thailand never saw much of a mask debate an the population complied almost without issue. Personally, I don't like wearing masks and would do so only when required to do so. In theory one could be fined up to 25,000 Baht for failure to wear a mask but i am yet to hear of this or any other fine ever being imposed on anyone.
The removal of the mask mandate nationwide probably has many reasons behind it and I'm sure a lot of them are political. One of the main reasons though is that this country is very dependent on tourism for income and travelers were and still are avoiding coming to the country because of perceived "hassles" that exist when they arrive.
Here in Chiang Mai people generally wore masks a lot anyway because the air quality is so bad during certain times of the year. If i had woken up from a coma I probably wouldn't have even noticed that anything had changed since masks were generally worn by a lot of people anyway.
I did find it extremely silly that masks were required when I was visiting places like the beaches down south or in a national park on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. I think there is a such a thing as a law and the reasonable application of said law.
Most of the country celebrated when it was announced that outdoor mask usage is now 100% elective and it still kind of remains unclear as to whether masks are required indoors. The other day I went to a shopping mall to pay my phone bill and it seemed to me that more than half of the people were wearing masks. There wasn't any indication at the entrances whether or not they were required or not.
Foreigners in particular were unhappy about mask requirements when visiting and many potential tourists decided to alter their travel plans to this country but it wasn't just because of the masks. Thailand has seen a great many of its restrictions regarding entry to the country get implemented, inevitably encounter problems, delays and glitches, and then the program gets scrapped altogether.
The "test and go" system they had in place that would put people in what was meant to be a 1-hour waiting period while they get a PCR test almost immediately encountered massive delays and at one point the backlog was up to 12 hours. Obviously, this is going to piss off a bunch of visitors and word quickly spread around the world to avoid vacationing in Thailand until they "get their shit together."
Well they did get it together by eventually doing what I said would happen from the start: They got rid of nearly all of the requirements and just went back to what they had done before. There is one nuisance that still remains in place and it is called the "Thailand Pass" where you have to submit a bunch of documents before arriving and then a QR code would be assigned to you that you have to check in at various places.
This "tracking" annoyed people not just because of the obvious privacy issues but because the entire system was frequently offline to the point where people just stopped using it. I recall once being at an airport, which is one place that they were definitely going to require the QR scanning and the system crashed and the authorities just started waving everyone through. This last vestige of Covid contact tracing has already been scrapped for Thai nationals and is slated to be completely removed by July 1st.
I think that this a very good move on the part of Thailand and as much as I hate to bash on my host country, they restrictions probably didn't need to be implemented at all in the first place. I think that by attempting to fiddle with things, that the government has done perhaps permanent damage to Thailand's dominance as far as tourism in SE Asia is concerned. I think this is why we are seeing all of the rules and regulations start to disappear all at the same time.
With any luck, and if things go according to schedule (fingers crossed on that) the country should be fully open the way that it was pre-Covid in the next month or so. Lord knows that the people here, especially those who work in tourism, desperately need this to happen.