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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

How has Thailand contained Covid-19 so effectively?

Jack Burton

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How has Thailand contained Covid-19 so effectively? | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Royal Thai Government
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When the Covid-19 was first detected in Thailand in January, a time when the deadly virus and its contagiousness were barely understood, the kingdom might have seemed like a likely backdrop for massive infection and mortality. Untold hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists visited the nation for the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, and Thailand was the first country outside of China to report a case of the virus, a Chinese tourist.

With all the signposts pointing towards a regional Covid nightmare, many, sarcastically, posed the question… What could possibly go wrong?!

But when a well known doctor at the royally affiliated Siriraj Hospital projected in March that Thailand would likely have 350,000 cases and 7,000 deaths by mid-April without social distancing, PM Prayut Chan-ocha invoked the Emergency Decree, centralised management of the crisis and phased in hard ‘lockdown’ measures, many of which still remain in place today.

Prayut’s move, recalling his previous coup-installed military government, sidelined elected officials who clearly lacked expertise in public health and crisis management, and allowed bureaucrats and medical professionals to command, lead and communicate his government’s response.

The kingdom has been comparatively lightly struck by the virus compared to many of its Southeast Asian neighbours with just 3,065 cases and 57 deaths as of today, and a recovery rate of 96%, some are still in hospital on their way to recovery.

Analysts, experts and diplomats may view Thailand’s official figures with a healthy dose of skepticism, mainly due to a lack of widespread and systematic testing, but few believe officials are involved in a cover-up to hide cases, conceal deaths or portray the nation in an inaccurately favourable light.

Indeed, there have been no reports of hospitals being overwhelmed with patients, nor has there been any discernible surge in pneumonia or other fatal illnesses, according to diplomats and regional health experts. There certainly hasn’t been a spate of Facebook posts with photos of dead bodies lining the streets. With a relatively free press and an even freer social media, officials would find it difficult to censor or hide any sudden rash of cases.

Bottomline, there has been nothing even vaguely suspect being posted online or shared.

Thailand’s so-far-mild Covid-19 experience probably owes to a uniquely Thai mix of factors, including a successful appeal to Thai nationalism that has underwritten “consensus compliance”, where stay-at-home and social distancing orders have been portrayed and obeyed as a patriotic duty. That’s seen in near universal adoption of mask-wearing, with Western tourists and expats often the only maskless ones. But they soon fell into line after it became compulsory or realising that the wearing of masks may indeed be a successful part of the prevention experience.

The tentative success could also be in part due to culture: Thais traditionally greet without touching, using the “wai”.

How has Thailand contained Covid-19 so effectively? | News by The Thaiger

Moreover, Thailand’s universal public health care system is a regional, if not global, role model, with low cost medical treatment available nationwide. That includes village-level rural health volunteers, who even in non-pandemic times, have their fingers on the pulse of local communities. Early on the Thai government also guaranteed that all Covid-19 cases, even foreigners, would be treated free of charge.

But Thailand’s relatively successful Covid-19 strategy is not yet firmly established, according to health experts. One ex-World Health Organisation official calls Thailand’s Covid-19 case count “amplified anecdotal” data, due to a lack of systematic and targeted testing. Thailand has tested only around 376,000 in a nation of nearly 70 million.

“Nobody knows the who, when, why or where of the tests and without that specificity we are still whistling in the dark.”

That includes among Thailand’s foreign migrant community who often live in less hygienic and more cramped quarters than the Singapore dormitories that have unleashed a “second wave” of new infections in the city-state. Singapore had previously been portrayed as a Covid-19 success story but now has become a cautionary tale with the highest number of cases in South east Asia whilst having one of the smallest populations.

Malaysia too is now grappling with a surge of new cases among its migrant population. Estimates vary but anywhere between 4-5 million migrant workers normally live and work in Thailand, though many have now returned to Myanmar and Cambodia.

Thailand’s virus response has not been entirely home-grown. One official close to PM Prayut believes Thailand’s success derives in part from cooperation with China, which he says has offered discreet medical advice on how to treat patients based on lessons learned in containing its outbreak in Wuhan, the disease’s most probable epicentre. Still, analysts agree that Prayut deserves certain credit for steering a firm and coherent strategy after an initially erratic virus response.

That included some less-than-helpful quotes from his public health minister who, in the early days, disparaged the “dirty farang” for not accepting the free face masks he was handing out at a PR stunt in Bangkok. After a few missteps he was sent to far-flung provinces for photo opportunities.

At the same time the government put in place daily reporting and a talented communicator and medical professional, Dr. Taweeslip Wisanuyothin, who provided detailed reports, 7 days a week, often offering doctors and other medical experts to assist in answers from the local and foreign media, and one-on-one interviews. Dr. Taweeslip became a voice of assurance and was the perfect front-man for the government’s Covid-19 strategy.

But the Thai PM will have a much harder time maintaining his success story narrative as the kingdom emerges from lockdown to face the pandemic’s economic devastation. Thailand’s central bank projects a 5.3% economic contraction and some private banking analysts predicting up to 8%.

Still, Prayut is under rising political and economic pressure to ease the lockdown and reopen the country’s closed borders. His government’s phased easing measures notably coincide with the start of the rainy season, when Thais often catch cold or contract the flu as the weather shifts from blazing hot to steamy and damp.

But any Covid-19 second wave, attributed to new community infections or inbound travellers, would be a public relations disaster for a nation that relies so heavily on tourism and the outside world for its growth and prosperity. Prayut can take some credit for Thailand’s Covid-19 success story, for now, but his victory lap could well be short-lived.

SOURCE: Asia Times

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Tim

    Thursday, May 28, 2020 at 9:17 pm

    Please Farang Folks where a mask. It’s the culture. Some Thai people where it all day working in the heat. It’s safer. It shows your not a narcissistic western idiot. It’s not that hard

    • Avatar

      David

      Friday, May 29, 2020 at 3:05 am

      Safer? Actually, no. That hasn’t been proven. Out of respect to the people around you?
      Yes. Based on any hard data? No. They want people to even get an unproven vaccine when after nearly forty years they haven’t found a cure for HIV or after a decade they haven’t found out even how to control SARS. So its a pipe dream. Even the wearing of masks is a fearful kneejerk reaction to the unknown.

      • Avatar

        DavidisaIdiot

        Friday, May 29, 2020 at 1:52 pm

        WTF is wrong with you? Wearing a mask has show to reduce the spread of the disease alongside social distancing.

        Not wearing a mask is a stupid kneejerk reaction to being told what to do. Stop being an infant, grow up and stay clean.

  2. Avatar

    Bora

    Friday, May 29, 2020 at 4:15 am

    As a foreigner who absolutely loves and adores Thai people, I’m so proud of what was achieved in Thailand, everyone doing their best to protect each other. We all see what happened in places like US, Russia, Brazil etc. where people refuse to wear masks, listen to Scientific advice. All cultures have their shortcomings and none can be perfect, but in dealing with this crisis, I would say Thai people came together beautifully at great expense to their livelihoods. I may have not survived having multiple preconditions in another country, Thai people you can say saved my life. So all the more love for these amazing people! Thank you! I for one I’m proud of them!

  3. Avatar

    Randall Hill

    Friday, May 29, 2020 at 8:56 am

    I’m an American living in Thailand. I think the Thai government has done a great job dealing with the coronavirus so far. It’s good to see such a coordinated and rational strategy. Hats off to all.

  4. Avatar

    Matthew

    Friday, May 29, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Yeah, three seasons in Thailand: HOT, HOTTER, and HOTTEST! At least the hottest one is now winding down.

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Thailand

PM Prayut postponing Covid‐19 vaccination citing paperwork issues

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PM Prayut postponing Covid‐19 vaccination citing paperwork issues | The Thaiger

Thailand’s PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is postponing his inaugural Covid‐19 vaccination citing paperwork issues with the AstraZeneca vaccine shipment. According to Khaosod English, the vaccine shipment was sent to Thailand last Wednesday from South Korea, but was missing the additional required paperwork.

Prayut was supposed to receive the vaccine tomorrow, but the highly‐publicised event will not be happening. According to Khaosod English, an official at the Secretariat of the Prime Minister has also confirmed the news of the postponement without citing a reason.

Although the Sinovac vaccine is also being administered in Thailand, healthcare officials say Prayut is too old to receive it as its age limit is 60. Prayut is 66 years old, which is well over the oldest age that can receive the vaccine.

The Sinovac vaccine drive is set to commence on Monday, 2 weeks behind schedule. Those frontline health workers, hospitality workers and vulnerable groups will receive the vaccines first.

Meanwhile, Phuket is waiting for the green lightto start administering vaccines and has already held a vaccine administration rehearsal overseen by Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong along with other health officials.

Pichet says the first vaccine round of 4,000 doses should arrive early in March, with the 2nd and 3rd set of doses, 16,000 and 48,000 respectively, to arrive in April and May.

The government pandemic center reported 72 new confirmed infections on Friday, after first only reporting 45 new cases. 37 of those cases were locally-transmitted, and one 6 year old Thai girl returning from the UK was found to have tested positive for the virus. Samut Sakhon, again, reported over half of the new cases yesterday, as it remains the epicentre of Thailand’s second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

The total virus tally in Thailand sits at 25,764, with 83 fatalities. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration has not yet announced the amount of new cases for today.

There is no word yet on when PM Prayut will be rescheduled to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

SOURCE: Khaosod English

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket holds vaccine administration rehearsal as it waits for green light

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Phuket holds vaccine administration rehearsal as it waits for green light | The Thaiger

Phuket is rehearsing procedures to ready themselves for the Covid‐19 vaccine administration green light. A rehearsal at Vachira Hospital’s Lan Muang Khao open area was held late yesterday to iron out any kinks in the administration process. Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong watched over the procedures along with other health officials.

Pichet says the first vaccine round of 4,000 doses should arrive early in March, with the 2nd and 3rd set of doses, 16,000 and 48,000 respectively, to arrive in April and May.

“The government recognises the importance of the affected areas of the economy where the epidemic situation of COVID-19 must be stopped and has allocated the COVID-19 vaccine to Phuket Province to build herd immunity, restore the economy, return a smile to Thailand.”

“We are preparing to COVID-19 mass vaccination to build confidence among the people that they will receive a quality, safe vaccine and to receive follow-up care after it has been administered.”

Pichet says Phuket’s first target groups to receive the vaccine include medical and public health personnel, with others on the frontlines to come next.

Then, workers aged 18-59 years old, people with underlying diseases including chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity will follow.

“People with severe neurological conditions and pregnant women should be wary of taking the vaccine, as well as women who are breastfeeding and people with immunodeficiency.”

The procedure to get vaccinated starts by recipients undergoing screening by having their temperatures taken, and then sanitising their hands before entering the administration area. Then, they will move their way through a series of steps, detailed below:

Step 1: Register

Step 2: Record weight and blood pressure

Step 3: Pass the screening process by have their medical history and risk assessment recorded and then signing a consent to receive the vaccine

Step 4: Wait for vaccination

Step 5: Vaccination

Step 6: Rest for 30 minutes, while being observed for symptoms. Then scan the official Line account “หมอพร้อม” (“Doctor Ready”)

Step 7: Pass a final check before receiving a document confirming vaccination

Pichet says health workers will follow up with vaccine recipients after 1,7, and 30 days from being vaccinated to monitor any adverse reactions.

Those who are set to receive their second jab will have appointments made for them. Those who receive the Sinovac vaccine will be scheduled to have their second doses 2 to 4 weeks after the first. AstraZeneca vaccine receivers will be scheduled for their second doses 10 to 12 weeks after the first.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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PM to receive AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday

Maya Taylor

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PM to receive AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai PBS World

The Thai PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha will receive the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on Sunday, while Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul will receive the Chinese jab. According to a Bangkok Post report, Sopon Mekthon from the sub-committee on vaccine management says both politicians will receive their vaccines at the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute. On Monday, the vaccination of priority groups in specific provinces will get underway.

Speaking about the arrival of the long-awaited vaccines yesterday, Anutin said the first batch would be distributed free of charge, with costs covered by the government.

“The vaccines are for Thais and those living in the country. Anyone who charges for the vaccine will face legal action.”

Thailand has taken delivery of 200,000 doses of the Chinese Sinovac jab and 117,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The arrival of the AstraZeneca jab took many by surprise, with no mention of its imminent arrival, unlike the PR hoopla surrounding the arrival of its Chinese counterpart. Another 800,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine are expected next month, followed by a further 1 million in April. After that, the rest of Thailand’s vaccines will be from AstraZeneca, with 26 million locally-manufactured doses expected to be available from May to June and another 35 million after that.

Nakorn Premsri from the National Vaccine Institute says the AstraZeneca vaccines arrived this week as a result of a commitment by the pharmaceutical giant to ensure equal access to Covid-19 vaccines.

“The AstraZeneca vaccines that arrived in Thailand must receive a lot release certificate from the Department of Medical Sciences before distribution to priority groups designated by the Department of Disease Control.”

Meanwhile, Thares Karasnairaviwong from the Department of Health Service Support says over 1.5 million village health volunteers are educating local residents about the importance of vaccination and establishing how many people fall into the priority groups who will be first to be inoculated.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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