Corona Virus Pandemic in Thailand.
See Video dd. 17 April , interview FCCT (Foreign Correspondence Club Thailand, Jonathan Head) with Tanarak Plipat, Deputy director of the Bureau of Epidemiology, regarding Corona virus pandemic measures, and review of situation in Thailand.
Update 28 April
The Centre for Covid-19 Administration (CCSA), chaired by the prime minister, proposed the following for the next cabinet meeting. It concerns measures that will continue or being modified, in response to the present state of the corona virus pandemic, which seems to have plateaued at a low level of infections at present, with 'few' casualties. Data dd. 27 April, indicate a total number of 2,931 infections in Thailand, with a total of 52 deaths.
The State of Emergency will continue till the end of May.
There will be a continued ban on public gatherings.
Ban on incoming international flights, until the end of May. This has separately been announced by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT). A total ban on incoming international tourism, costs Thailand between 4 and 5 billion U.S. Dollars per months.
Work from home policy.
Curfew as before from 10 P.M. till 4 A.M. This is a measure that seems to be unique for Thailand. We do not know of any complete curfew in other places. Alcohol ban will likely also continue to be in place, though no decision about this has been clearly announced.
Restriction on travel inside the country. As a reminder, there are quite a few provinces in Thailand, with very few Corona infections. Some local flights may be resumed.
In Bangkok, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (provinces can decide their own particular version of a lock-down) announced the following changes within the next week or so :
lRestaurants will be opened (with restrictions in place), as well as markets and flea markets.
Sports and exercise facilities will be opened (we think this will also include gyms), but team sports still suspended.
Parks can reopen.
Barbers and hairdressers, health clinics (not beauty clinics), golf courses reopen.
Customers at all the above venues will need body temperature checks, wear a face mask, clean their hands, and keep distance.
Alcohol ban for the moment remains in place.
17 April 2020
Time has passed. The number of infections and deaths around the world has already been substantial, with a true scandal developing all over Europe, where old age care institutions now report casualties by the thousands. In some countries, elderly people dying in institutions, are simply not included in the statistics.
In Thailand, we do not have this particular problem, since there hardly are any old age care institutions. As of April 17 in the morning there are 2,672 infection reported, with a total of 46 deaths. Thailand now ranks 50th in the world, when infections are counted.
Regarding measures in place, not much has changed over the past few weeks. There is a curfew now between 10 PM and 4 AM, and quite a few people got arrested for breaking it. More importantly there is a temporary ban on alcohol sales, which may be an effective ruling. In Thailand (though less lately) it is a habit of quite a few (mostly young men) people gathering around 7-Elevens off the main roads. Beer is cheap and there is often ample sitting place outside the convenience stores. And believe, people enjoying big bottles of beer, do not keep to social distancing.
I write the present update mostly because of an interesting interview, published in the Bangkok Post dd. 16 April, with Boon Vanasin, the chairman of Thonburi Healthcare Group, which consists of a number of hospitals around Bangkok.
Among other statements, he says that the number of (asymptomatic) infections is surely much higher than reported, mainly because only persons with fever or other symptoms are tested. The limited number of infections in Thailand, does not prevent the three main hospitals taking care of Covid-19 patients to be full. By the way, these hospitals are not the ones usually in the news, that cater mainly to foreigners. Apparently, Thailand has only 200 ventilators that can trap air without spreading the virus, and most of them are already in use.
So hopefully, there will not be a substantial increase in new cases. And maybe the dire evaluation presented above, needs confirmation.
Video : How is Thailand tackling Covid-19
26 March 2020
A state of emergency has been declared by the prime minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, starting from 26 March to 30 April 2020.
Among the initial decrees : all foreigners are prohibited to enter the country (with certain exceptions) ; all public gatherings are banned. Importantly, there is a lot of talk about imposing a 24-hour curfew. However, it has been stated that a date herefore is not yet set, and will not be announced in advance, apparently to avoid disturbing hoarding scenes.
Quite disturbing scenes have been recorded at the immigration offices at the Government Complex on Chaengwattana road. Apparently, and unacceptable situation unfolded where long queues were formed, people could not keep distance between themselves, etc. This obviously created contamination dangers, not only between applicants of visa extensions (some people can not move out of Thailand at present), and between applicants and immigration officers. It was announced that applying online for certain services is recommended and sometimes possible. For example, it is possible to do 90-day reporting online. There is a suitable form for that, though this procedure will necessitate a printer with scanning function. It is puzzling that immigration was operating like this, while on the other hand, a lot of measures are taken in Bangkok and the rest of Thailand.
On another note, the BTS (skytrain) and MRT (metro) have announced that wearing face masks is obligatory now. People will not be allowed to enter the transport system, but provisions will be made to acquire face masks in situ, if necessary.
As for the present statistics of Covid-19 infection : As of 25 March 5:00 P.M. there were 934 infections diagnosed. Still was a substantial jump from even just a week ago. On the other hand, the number of deaths is still limited at 4 casualties. Thailand ranks 30th among countries with the most infections.
Something interesting : Bumrungrad Hospital (there likely are also other hospitals) offers Covid-19 testing, using the real-time PCR technique, which tests for the genetic material of the virus. The test is priced at 10,500 baht. For those who have symptoms, that could be related to a Covid-19 infection, and undergo testing, please make sure you are all set and prepared to be home quarantined, quarantined somewhere else, or isolated, after results of these tests are known (and positive).
Original First Report
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. Highly recommended.
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 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.
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 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.
Source : mostly Bangkok Post newspaper