The MOPH said in a statement that COVID-19 will be downgraded from a "dangerous" communicable disease to one that "needs monitoring." Under the kingdom's disease classification, diseases deemed as "dangerous" include plague and smallpox. Influenza and dengue fever, meanwhile, fall under diseases that "need monitoring."
According to Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, the decision to downgrade COVID-19 sought to reflect the reality of the situation – with Thailand's COVID-19 situation starting to stabilize. Earlier, health authorities said the kingdom should start seeing a decline in severe cases and deaths by mid-August.
Anutin added in a statement that the MOPH's move reflects the readiness of the Thai health system, "appropriate self-protection behavior" of the Thai people and the availability of COVID-19 treatments in the kingdom.
He added that Thailand will also adjust its post-pandemic management plan. This will allow private hospitals to start directly procuring antiviral drugs soon, instead of going through government channels.
The Southeast Asian kingdom lifted all COVID-19 travel restrictions and the outdoor mask mandate on July 1. According to the Bangkok Post, COVID-19 lockdowns and business closures were lifted on the same day. Domestic and international travel bans were also rescinded, it added.
Gen. Somsak Roongsita, the secretary-general of Thailand's Office of the National Security Council (ONSC), compared the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions to a complete reopening. He added that officials would be drafting measures to aid with the reopening of the kingdom's economy.
Authorities will have serious discussions because after the emergency decree ends, other laws will be used instead," said Somsak.
According to figures from Johns Hopkins University, Thailand has a total of 4.6 million COVID-19 cases and 31,630 deaths as of writing.
The decision to downgrade COVID-19 to "needs monitoring" followed the kingdom lowering its COVID-19 alert level early this year. Anutin confirmed the decision on Jan. 18, adding that they were considering other measures to boost the Thai economy. The relaxed alert level, he explained, was in response to a lower infection rate. (Related: Southeast Asian governments are reopening their economies that were devastated by lockdowns.)
Thailand lowered its COVID-19 alert level from level four to level three, following Bangkok's five-tier alert system. Despite the relaxation, the health minister clarified that nightclubs, pubs and bars would remain closed.
One of the measures proposed by Anutin was the creation of "sandbox" areas for tourists. Under the scheme established to rebuild Thailand's hard-hit tourism sector, tourists can skip quarantine if they stay in specified areas for seven days and undergo two COVID-19 tests.
The sandbox scheme is currently in place in the provinces of Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi and Koh Samui. According to Anutin, Chiang Mai, Chonburi, Khon Kaen and Samut Prakan provinces may also also be included.
Furthermore, the health minister proposed the return of a test-and-go scheme for tourists. If passed, tourists would only need to test negative for COVID-19 on arrival to Thailand.
Pandemic.news has more stories about how Thailand and other countries respond to COVID-19.
Watch Swedish biostatistician Martin Kulldorf below argue that COVID-19 would have been endemic like the flu if not for lockdowns.
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