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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia – surprise spikes in Covid infections

Tim Newton



For Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand, the Covid situation was ‘under control’. Everything was going fine and the countries were mulling re-opening borders to general travel. Well everything was going fine, until it wasn’t.

In just 3 bewildering weeks, Thailand has gone from ‘let’s re-open Phuket’ to setting up thousands of field hospital beds. The daily infection totals over the past week have surpassed anything Thailand has had to face over the past year. A cluster of cases from Bangkok’s hi-so nightclubs was followed by Bangkokians heading out of town for Songkran, mixing about with their families and friends, and then returning, a massive movement of people around the country.

The Thai government couldn’t have come up with a more effective plan to spread Covid-19 if it had tried.

Restrictions have been now announced nationally, with some tighter measures being announced in red zone provinces. Bars and clubs have been shut, restaurants banned from serving alcohol and the opening hours of shopping centres have been cut. Some provinces are doing one thing whilst the province next door is doing another. Provincial police are not exactly sure what they’re meant to enforce because it changes almost daily.

Some red zone provinces now have entry restrictions, including Covid paperwork, proof of vaccination or insistence to do a test upon arrival. More will follow.

Doctors, too, are reporting that patients in this current wave, which involves the more transmissible strain called B117, or the UK variant, are presenting with a different cocktail of symptoms. Thai doctors are reporting that about 40% of patients with symptoms developed pneumonia while in hospital – a higher proportion than in Thailand’s previous waves.

A survey conducted by the UK Office for National Statistics in England found that people testing positive for the new variant were more likely to report persistent coughing, rashes, red eyes, tiredness, muscle aches, sore throat and fever compared to those who have the original strain.


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  1. Avatar

    George Sternes

    Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 11:28 am

    Hospital acquired Pneumonia is quite well known, it is foolish to place people in a confined care situation when they have no need for such care. This is a terrible mismanagement by the Thai Covid authorties.

    Why can’t they simply observe other countries and apply best practices instead of making up these rediculous rules.

  2. Avatar


    Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 11:45 am

    It was never “going fine” that not how this game is playing out…

  3. Avatar


    Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    Wow we had it under control oh then we didn’t. And all the commentary above in this article, fascinating indeed. It has never been under control ladies and gentleman. May I remind everyone you cannot stop a highly transmissible virus. So all the lockddowns, masks, social distancing are to achieve one end? Slow it down, as you cannot stop it. So what does? Immunity! How do you get it? Well some get the virus then develop immunity, ‘its called ‘Natural Immunity’ and others get vaccinated and get ‘Artifical Immunity’! Then at herd levels the virus dies off in that population. Then we all move on. Nothing has changed in all of history. So what the slow down has allowed is vaccines to be developed. So now what you are seeing is totally predictable. The Thai government in all their wisdom see we have the vaccines (or will soon they hope and pray), so lets open the economy as people are financially screaming! Ala Song Khran super spreader event being allowed. Now watch the virus spread like a wild fire! As it was always going to eventually! Good luck with getting it and good luck with the vaccine. Dr Ray

  4. Avatar

    Simon Small

    Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    Another excellent, well written, well researched, informed, informative, and thought provoking original article, Thaiger – local and on-the-spot national reporting at its best.

    “In just 3 weeks Thailand has recorded nearly twice the number of new infections than the whole of 2020”

    I’d suggest that since “the number of new infections” is always arguable, anywhere, of more significance are the number of fatalities and serious hospital cases.

    After staying around 70 for months, deaths have spiralled
    to over a hundred; most significantly, though, after a year of single figures on ventilators the numbers have rocketed from 9 only a fortnight ago to 28 a week ago to 55 this week.

    I hate to say it, but a five-fold increase doesn’t look good.

    All three, Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia just got too complacent.

    In Thailand, “the Thai government couldn’t have come up with a more effective plan to spread Covid-19 if it had tried”. The extension of the Songkran holiday to 9 days for those seeing their families across Thailand, and subsidising hotels by 50% for those wanting a holiday; full scale concerts and partying in Pattaya and Phuket; bars and nightclubs formally or tacitly encouraged to party; quarantine reduced from 14 days to 10 for no scientific reason.

    All eyes focused on sandboxing Phuket ready for vaccinated tourists and no-one kept their eye on the ball and noticed that the fat lady wasn’t singing but she was coughing.

    Malaysia thought they’d got things under control and at the end of January they bowed to pressure and relaxed their mandatory hospital quarantine for anyone testing positive, as in Thailand, so some who were asymptomatic could “self-quarantine” at home instead. The results can’t just be coincidental even if it was followed a week ago by opening the Ramadan markets and evening gatherings.

    In Cambodia it was time for Khmer New Year (as Thailand) and to celebrate having a vaccination rate ten times higher than Thailand’s – not worrying that, depending on Covax, it could be months before or Q4 at the earliest before the other 90%+ of the population could even start to be vaccinated.

    All three, particularly Thailand, had exceeded expectations by following the science but they just got over-confident and cocky – Thailand worst of all.

  5. Avatar

    Simon Small

    Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 5:40 pm

    “Why can’t they simply observe other countries and apply best practices instead of making up these rediculous rules.”

    They did.

    It is “best practice” according to the WHO and if you look at the countries that have best limited Covid deaths either from the start or later (New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc, etc) that’s exactly what nearly all do.

    If, on the other hand, you look at the countries that have the most Covid deaths, it’s something none of them do.

    That should tell you something … or maybe not.

  6. Avatar


    Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 6:17 pm

    of course it could be stopped but if the right thing were done at the first place. again there are few country well under control, the reason is, measures were set up at the right time. this means immediately after been informed of case # 1.

    it s not rocket science, why Australia and NZ have low cases record????? first there are islands, nobody get in excepted by air or by sea. border are easier to control, hence these 2 country had closed the border right away.

    second point, as soon as a case was identify immediate complete lockdown of ground zero and surrounded area, mass testing and quarantine for other case.

    despite these, a lot of infringement were recorded, fee were high but you can t trust peoples, even one had the idea to get laid in hotel quarantine with an oversea traveller. We know what was the consequence.

    so it is the same than any leaks, more the hole is big more the debit is high. Thailand is not at the level of European countries, if government do the right thing all can stop but yes it will hurt a lot of peoples …….economy can recover, health for some may never comeback.

  7. Avatar

    James R

    Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    Simon Small aka Issan John

    I won’t repeat myself again, but I have been saying for months now just wait to see what happens in Thailand re the numbers, I said it would go exponential and it has, this is just the start.

    I repeat a country will be re-infected on a massive scale if it carries on with the partying, unrestricted bars and restaurant, shopping centres etc.

    The changes just put in place are not enough, cutting down a few hours here and there re opening times will not do the job, the numbers are coming and coming now, again just wait and see.

    Your waffle about Cambodia, Thailand etc doing the right thing will look silly very soon, science is science, if anyone allows free movement during a pandemic then they are asking for trouble as we found out in the UK last year but now will soon have it under full control here due to a long lockdown and a massive vaccination roll out.

  8. Avatar

    Simon Small

    Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at 2:59 pm

    “I won’t repeat myself again,” etc

    That you just did, even saying “I repeat …” highlights the intelligence and credibility of your comments.

  9. Avatar

    James R

    Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 1:46 am

    simon small aka Issan John

    Your lack of intelligence is shown by being petty and not addressing valid points re the content of an article.

    But I will repeat myself now, just wait and see what happens to the numbers of deaths in Thailand as they are increasing at the moment and will continue to increase, it will soon make your constant claims look silly.

  10. Avatar

    Pattaya Lover

    Friday, April 23, 2021 at 7:34 pm

    Do like the African Nations. No lock down, no restrictions, get the economy going.
    Get the virus, rely on your natural immune system. Most had the virus and got well without knowing.
    Don’t be afraid to get infected. U are built with defensive system.

  11. Avatar


    Saturday, May 8, 2021 at 8:35 pm

    @Ray – If herd immunity was/is actually possible why is it that before the end of this year, most countries will be telling you that you now need a booster shot-or possibly two shots—per year from now on?.
    Herd immunity is an illusion that will soon be popped by BIG PHARMA COMPANIES.
    You may have heard it first here on the Thaiger.

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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for 41 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented over 10,000 radio news bulletins, 3,900 in Thailand alone, hosted 650 daily TV news programs and produced 2,100 videos, TV commercials and documentaries. As founder of The Thaiger, Tim now acts as the Content Manager and head-writer, whilst supervising the growth of the YouTube channel. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and other major stories in Thailand.

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