When the coronavirus first started to unfold quickly within the Chinese language metropolis of Wuhan, Thailand appeared particularly susceptible. It was the primary nation exterior China to report a case of Covid-19, when, on 13 January, a 61-year-old lady from Wuhan was confirmed to have examined constructive in Bangkok. Thailand was in its peak vacationer season, welcoming travellers from world wide. A significant outbreak appeared virtually inevitable.
But, 11 months later, like lots of its south-east Asian neighbours, Thailand has thus far averted the worst of the virus.
As of 15 December, Thailand has recorded 4,246 infections because the begin of the yr – simply over a fifth of the instances recorded on Monday alone within the UK. Fatalities stand at 60.
Prof Anucha Apisarnthanarak, chief of the infectious ailments division at Thammasat College, stated the nation’s success was all the way down to clear communication by well being consultants, a willingness to permit scientists to guide the response and an efficient lockdown, which was adopted by the general public.
“I feel one of the crucial impactful interventions was common masks sporting,” he added. “We did it not as a result of we knew [it would be effective] however as a result of someway that is the Asian tradition.” There may be, Anucha stated, now proof to counsel that this considerably lowered the variety of infections and deaths.
As Thailand saved its case numbers beneath management, medical groups had been in a position to supply larger care to sufferers who did check constructive. Any particular person confirmed to have the virus was hospitalised, even when they had been asymptomatic or had simply gentle signs – a coverage that lowered the danger of additional native transmission and of a affected person changing into severely unwell.
‘We aren’t immune’
Initially, simply two laboratories in Thailand had capability to check for Covid-19, however the quantity has since grown to 250, stated Dr Supaporn Wacharapluesadee, deputy chief of the Thai Purple Cross Rising Infectious Ailments Well being Science Centre at King Chulalongkorn memorial hospital. “We will have early detection of any suspected case,” she stated, with outcomes supplied inside 24 hours, permitting early remedy. A WHO report on Thailand’s response produced in July, said that the case fatality price was round 1.7%.
It’s attainable that demographics and the atmosphere have additionally performed a task. Weight problems and different attainable threat elements similar to hypertension and diabetes are comparatively much less frequent in Thailand than in lots of the international locations worst hit by the coronavirus, stated Anucha.
In neighbouring Cambodia – the place confirmed nationwide instances stand at 362 as of 15 December, and there have been no confirmed deaths – three-quarters of the inhabitants reside in rural settings, and spend an excessive amount of time open air.
Neither international locations’ response has been flawless. Some have pointed to the low testing charges in Cambodia, and expressed specific concern over the vulnerability of prisoners within the nation’s notoriously cramped jails. Final month, the federal government recognized what it described as the primary neighborhood transmission, with the director of prisons, who had current contact with inmates, testing constructive.
A joint assertion issued by Amnesty Worldwide, Human Rights Watch and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights urged the federal government to conduct rigorous testing of prisoners, and to scale back overcrowding. Prisons division spokesperson Nuth Savna stated final week that some inmates had slight fever, coughing and runny noses – signs he attributed to the altering climate, although that they had not been examined on the time, in line with a report by VOD English.
Cambodia’s authoritarian chief, Hun Sen, a staunch ally of China, had beforehand brought about alarm earlier by showing to downplay the virus. Rights teams have accused him of utilizing the virus as a pretext for cracking down on dissent and increasing his powers.
Hold Chansana, head of emergency well being on the Cambodian Purple Cross, stated hospitals had not but been overwhelmed – which might be the case if the nation was going through a significant outbreak. He put the nation’s success all the way down to a technique targeted on three factors: “One, promote management of the imported case; second, forestall unfold locally; and third, enhance the remedy for the constructive instances.”
In each international locations the pandemic has proved economically devastating. In Thailand, strict entry restrictions have halted tourism, contributing to hundreds of thousands of job loses. Over current weeks, a small cluster of instances has emerged, linked to folks travelling undetected over the Myanmar border, prompting fears the virus might unfold amongst migrant staff, who could also be reluctant to report signs in the event that they haven’t crossed into the nation by way of an official route.
Anybody coming into Thailand is required to quarantine in designated services for 14 days, and bear a number of Covid-19 assessments.
The nation will solely be capable of open up once more as soon as international instances are beneath management and a vaccine turns into accessible, stated Anucha, which might be in Might or June subsequent yr. He believes it’s attainable for Thailand to retain management of the virus – however provided that it retains up its guard.
“Our nation actually wants a vaccine,” he added. “We aren’t immune.”