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Top Thai virologist says if you’re healthy “you can ditch the face mask”

PHOTO: TTR Weekly

A prominent Thai virologist says healthy people no longer need to wear face masks, according to a Nation Thailand report. Dr Yong Poovorawan says high levels of immunity to Covid-19, built up over the past 3 years of infection and vaccination, mean healthy people can ditch the face masks.

Despite the compulsory wearing of face masks in public in Thailand being removed last year, many Thais continue to wear them in public spaces and on public transport. Many government office buildings also continued the requirement, including Thai immigration offices.

“After 3 years of the pandemic, 50 million people have been infected. 80% of citizens have received second booster doses and 40% have had a third dose, resulting in Covid-19 immunity among 96% of the population.”

Thailand’s mask mandate has eased as the pandemic abates and Covid-19 is re-classified as a communicable disease under surveillance. In a Facebook post, Yong says young children can now attend school without the need to wear a mask.

“However, hygiene in schools must be stressed, including handwashing habits, cleaning and ventilation, and keeping sick children out of the classroom.”

The virologist adds that adults with respiratory diseases should continue to wear face masks outside the home. In addition, everyone should wear a face mask on public transport and in crowded spaces. However, Yong says healthy people don’t need to wear them in outdoor areas such as parks, beaches, and on the street.

In the end though, it comes down to personal choice and for large swathes of the Thai population, the choice seems to be to stick with the masks for now.

“As wearing a face mask is no longer mandatory, everyone needs to decide by themselves whether to use one as we enter ‘new normal’ circumstances.”

Yong has also warned of the need to be vigilant in relation to highly-contagious Covid strains, as more international tourists arrive from countries where such variants are spreading rapidly.

He says strains such as XBB.1.5 and BQ.1.1, currently circulating in the US and Europe, are more concerning than the BA.5.2 strain. This is because  BA.5.2, currently driving the surge in infections in China, is already circulating in Thailand.

“BA.5.2 is not worrisome as Thailand has already faced it. Instead, the XBB.1.5 and BQ.1.1 subvariants from the US and Europe are concerning.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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