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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

How has Thailand contained Covid-19 so effectively?

Jack Burton



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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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.



  1. Avatar


    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


      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


        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


    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

    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


    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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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Uruguay’s Covid-19 Policy of “freedom with responsibility” shows success




Uruguay’s Covid-19 Policy of “freedom with responsibility” shows success | The Thaiger

To the Government of Uruguay’s relief, their policy of “independence with responsibility” in the containment of the Covid-19 pandemic seems to have been successful… so far. Yesterday, when Europe opened its borders to 15 countries, Uruguay became the only Latin American country to be included. With less than 1,000 registered Covid-19 cases and just 27 deaths, the 3.4 million-plus nation is a significant anomaly in the south American countries that have become the new hotzone of coronavirus cases. Read more HERE

Uruguay currently has just 83 confirmed cases, while its giant neighbour Brazil is the hardest hit country in the world after the US.

This performance is especially impressive as there has never been an official lockdown to the extent other countries have imposed. Instead, in the midst of industrial businesses, school and border closures, authorities ‘advised’ people to stay indoors and strictly adhere to social distancing.

The message was conveyed to the public by media and police helicopters flying overhead with frequent updates and positive messaging, education and information.

The president, who took office in early March as the pandemic was just warming up, said he opted for “individual rights” rather than a “police state” approach. Calls for self-isolation were widely adhered to with minimal effort from officials.

Infectious disease specialist Alvaro Galiana credits the success of Uruguay to early identification and tracking.

Galiana says… “The early appearance of well-known cases, at a time when the circulation of the virus within the population was very limited, led to adequate measures being implemented, even if at the time they seemed exaggerated “.

SOURCE: The Jakarta Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Nightlife operators warned: follow the rules or face closure

Jack Burton



Nightlife operators warned: follow the rules or face closure | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Tripzilla

Bangkok police have issued a stern warning to nightlife venue operators… follow the rules or be closed again. National police chief Chaktip Chaijinda has instructed officers to make sure entertainment venue operators comply with disease control regulations and that both service providers and customers understand the “new normal.”

The warning comes after a meeting of senior city police, the Health Department of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, and more than 200 entertainment venue operators, in which they were briefed on regulatory compliance in the fifth phase of lockdown relaxations. He said entertainment venues that fail to adopt the safety regulations will be warned, and if they refuse to comply, will be ordered to suspend their operations.

Dararat Matkham, a restaurant and karaoke operator, said she’s relieved nightlife venues are being allowed to reopen, and has already put in place public health safety practices – she’s provided sanitiser gel for customers and microphones will be cleaned regularly, although customers are being advised to bring their own microphones. She says her premises will place tables in accordance with social distancing rules.

Somwang Chuenhathai, a “soapy massage” operator says his business has made it mandatory for masseuses to wear face shields or masks while working, and his premises will be cleaned before and during opening hours.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

World travel business faces slow recovery – UN report

The Thaiger



World travel business faces slow recovery – UN report | The Thaiger

Plenty of businesses are suffering and recovery will be slow, and lumpy. One of the hardest hit, and probably one of the most difficult industries to re-start, is the world travel business. Hotels, airlines, tour companies, travel agencies and online booking systems… and the millions of people employed to make all those work together as a working machine.

Now a UN study predicts that the global tourism business will lose up to US$3.3 trillion due to impact of Covid-19 bans and lockdowns, with Thailand to lose US$47 billion alone. According to the report, Thailand and France stand to lose around US$47 billion each. But the US and China are projected to have single largest losses in the travel industry.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions in the global economy. By the end of the first quarter of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic had brought international travel to an abrupt halt and significantly impacted the tourism industry.”

The UN Conference on Trade and Development has released its ‘Covid-19 and Tourism’ and poses 3 scenarios for the world travel industry, assessing the impact of restrictive measures lasting 4, 8 and 12 months. Revenues are projected to fall $1.17, $2.22 and $3.3 trillion in the 3 scenarios, or 1.5-4.2% of the world’s GDP.

Speaking at a media conference, one of the authors believed that the second scenario “could be a realistic one”.

“International tourism has been almost totally suspended, and domestic tourism curtailed by lockdown conditions imposed in many countries. Although some destinations have started slowly to open up, many are afraid of international travel or cannot afford it due to the economic crisis.”

Then small tourist island states, such as Jamaica, stand to lose a much larger proportion of their economies, facing an 11% fall in GDP. Tourist islands like Bali and Phuket are also facing a bleak outlook until their tourism industries pick up again.

The UNCTAD report covers 65 individual countries and regions and is calling for governments to boost social protection for affected workers in the worst impacted nations.

World travel business faces slow recovery - UN report | News by The Thaiger

Download the full report HERE.

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