DestinationsCountries in Southeast Asia have taken significant steps toward resuming normality by making face masks optional in public spaces.

When masks come down in Asia, smiles go up

Wearing of face masks is now optional across many parts of Asia.
Wearing of face masks is now optional across many parts of Asia. Photo Credit: GettyImages/twinsterphoto

One by one, governments in Southeast Asia have announced the lifting of the mask policies, making living and travel in the region a lot more similar to pre-pandemic times.

Thailand was the first to loosen its mask mandate, making it optional since 23 June for locals and visitors to don face masks in public places. However, the government encourages the wearing of masks in crowded or poorly ventilated places.

Other countries have swiftly followed suit.

Singapore also lifted its indoor mask mandate since 29 August. On flights, mask-wearing requirements will depend on the rules or laws in the destination country as well as the airline.

In Malaysia, the wearing of face masks in enclosed spaces -- with the exception of public transport and medical facilities -- has become optional in Malaysia since 7 September.

Vietnam, too, has relaxed rules for wearing masks in many public settings since 6 September. Masks are no longer required for public areas such as supermarkets, movie theatres, restaurants, stadiums, parks and other outdoor areas.

Wearing of face masks when outdoors is now optional in the Philippines.

Despite the easing of pandemic rules, it is still common to see the use of face masks in indoor spaces across Southeast Asia as many locals continue to take precautions against Covid-19 in their daily lives.

Elsewhere in the region, hospitality and retail businesses in New Zealand welcomed the government's move to scrap all mask wearing requirements for customers from 12 September.

“Few people like covering their faces, and it is a barrier to providing good personal service,” said Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois, quoted by local media Stuff.

Since 11 September, the Australian government brought an end to its mask mandate for both domestic and international flights although most Australian states still mandate mask wearing on many other forms of public transport.

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