Corona Virus Pandemic in Thailand.



Updates on this page here :

On 13 January a Chinese tourist became the first case of a corona virus infection on Thai soil, when arriving by plane at Suvarnabhumi Airport. At the time only a few tens of patients had been confirmed as infected in Wuhan City of China, where the disease apparently originated. Actually, the first case of corona virus infection ( Covid-19 to be precise ) occurred in Thailand.

Airport screening in Thailand started soon thereafter. A first Thai citizen was reported positive on 23 January, after a visit earlier to Wuhan province. While the death toll mounted in China during the month of January, cases detected in Thailand, where very limited. Thai citizens in Wuhan were evacuated begin February.

 

Thais queueing for free delivery of mond masks

Thais patiently (a long queue of a few hundred meters around the block) for mouth masks, delivered in front of Villa Market on Sukhumvit Road.

As of 18 March 2020 there have been 220,229 confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection, with at total of 8,982 deaths. (https://www.worldometers.info/)

Most casualties occurred in China (3,237 deaths), but Italy had had some disastrous weeks by then, with 2,978 deaths, while Iran was the third most affected country with 1,135 casualties. The epicentrum of the corona virus pandemic has by now shifted from China to Europe. China reports only few new infections since mid March, and starts being afraid that Chinese citizens entering the country from abroad, rekindle the infection.

At that time, Thailand had reported 212 cases, with only 1 casualty. With that record, the country only occupied the 40th position in the ranking of countries where Corona infection has occurred.

We should not forget that Thailand was the first country after China, where a (imported) corona virus infection was reported.

 

Why ?

One can ask, why have there not been more cases recorded in Thailand ? We have to be careful here, because apparently regularly in the past two months, countries have recorded few cases for a few weeks, before all hell broke loose, and cases started skyrocketing.

One explanation, that cases are intentionally underreported, we disregard out of hand. The quality of medical care in Thailand would make this type of concealment impossible.

An alternative explanation, is that most cases of Covid-19 infection occurred in the so-called temperate climate zones, and then in winter. Temperature in Wuhan, Europe, Iran, South Korea, have been rather cold the last few months, due to the (end) of the winter season. Most of Southeast Asia enjoys warmer temperatures all year round, which may explain why there are fewer infections, if we accept that the virus strives rather poor in warmer as well as much colder temperatures. Malaysia (790) and Singapore (313) have more cases than Thailand, but very few casualties at present (2 and 0 reported at present).

 

Desinfecting Device in front of the entrance to Emporium Shopping Complex, Bangkok, Thailand

Desinfecting device in front of an entrance to Emporium Shopping Complex. One of the agents used is benzalkonium chloride. Just walk through and you will be all clean (?)

Yet another possibility is that Thailand has found its own way of coping with the disease, and by good fortune, things are for the moment under control.

What is being done differently. We have been reading that in many countries, certainly in Europe, there is a problem with the provision of mouth masks, and other equipment. Apparently, the shortage is such, that medical service providers (and dentists) may be running out of supplies. In this situation, mouth masks are not easily available to the general public. On top of that, the use of masks is disencouraged, for the following reasons : the are not effective, and in many cases not used propertly ; people touch their face all the time, and after touching an infected object of person, the masks themselves may become a source of contamination. Masks are reportedly only advised for infected persons to wear, that way limiting transmission when coughing, spitting or talking.

There is the danger of wishful thinking : there are not enough masks available, but not to worry, they are not effective anyway.

Black and White thinking, very common these days, may also be at work. Likely it is the case, that mouth masks are neither effective, nor not effective. They may offer something quite different : partial protection ! I have read a few times, that for an epidemic to spread real fast, it takes just one person on average infecting 2 or 3 other persons. If an infected person himself or herself, infects only 1 other person, the epidemic can be contained, and cases will not skyrocket.

When walking around Bangkok, you will see most people (somewhere between 80% and 90%) are wearing masks. There are reports of shortages, but most people are still wearing them. We witnessed a distribution of mouth masks just the other day, where a few hundreds (!) of people where patiently queuing for there packet with a few masks, freely being distributed.

The use of mouth masks, is especially striking when using the public transport (skytrain or subway). There seem to be more mouth mask wearers than mobile phone users nowadays. Most people not wearing masks are foreigners, and this can be rather striking (also when walking the streets, where masks in effect may be less of a necessity). One should understand, that for a few weeks they have been told repeatedly that using mouth masks in useless, and then again, they may have difficulty finding masks in Bangkok themselves.

It is important to note, that because of poor air quality conditions (for the third year in a row during the colder season of December to end February) masks have been available at many stores, including convenience stores, though nowadays they are hard to find there. This possibly made for an available useful stock of mouth masks when the corona virus infection appeared.

On top of the wearing of mouth masks, there is since a few weeks, the widespread use of disinfecting (70% alcohol based) agents for hand washing when entering shopping malls, public transport, coffeebars etc. These are also widely used, and in some cases, you can get the evil eye from the security guards when not using them as suggested.

Updates :

26 March 2020