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Thailand’s Health Department Keeping a Lid on Covid-19

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Covid-19 coronavirus, health department, thailand
Thailand’s Health Department on Saturday reported 5 new cases of Covid-19 Coronavirus, all were quarantined returnees from Saudi Arabia. Bringing total cases to 3,134 and 58 deaths since the outbreak began in January.

The Health Department reported that the new infections were Thai students from Saudi Arabia. They arrived in Thailand on June 12 are also in state quarantine facilities.

All five had a cough, sore throats and loss of smell. Three of them, aged 21, 23 and 26, are being treated at a hospital in Chachoengsao province. The other two, are at a Samut Prakan hospital, the Health Department reported.

The new infections brought the total number of Covid-19 Coronavirus cases in the country to 3,134. The death toll still remains at 58. Of the 3,076 patients, 2,987 have recovered and been discharged, with 89 still in hospitals.

Coronavirus death toll extremely low

There has now been no local transmission of Covid-19 for 19 consecutive days. On Monday, the Government will end restrictions imposed in the past three months. Including the curfew. Furthermore the state of emergency will remain in effect at least until the end of June.

The Covid-19 coronavirus has infected more than seven million people around the globe. Its has also killed more than 400,000 of them. Yet Thailand, which was the first country to record an infection outside China, has so far been relatively unscathed.

How has the kingdom escaped the horror that has gripped much of the world? On the evening of June 10, a panel of experts convened at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand to discuss possible explanations.

Inaccurate numbers?

Craig Griffin, Thailand representative of ESCOMAR, a global market research association, began proceedings by debunking a conspiracy theory that has steadily lost traction over recent weeks – that cases of Covid-19 in Thailand are actually much higher than reported.

“If the epidemic was as serious as in European countries and the US, we’d be talking about thousands of deaths,” he pointed out. “I don’t think it’s credible to think that kind of cover-up is happening.”

Climate, customs and other variables?

Matthew Tostevin, Southeast Asia editor for Reuters, agreed. “In Jakarta, by the end of March we found 1000 more burials than usual, since records began. Coronavirus was the only clear explanation. … We did the same thing in Thailand and didn’t find a large number of unexplained deaths.”

Despite the higher numbers in Indonesia, Southeast Asia has seen such a tiny fraction of the infections and deaths logged in Europe, the US and now Latin America. Mr Tostevin said there was no clear explanation for this, but mentioned some of the theories being floated: warmer weather, racial differences, cultural preference for not shaking hands and hugging, the prevalence of mask-wearing and the effectiveness of government responses to the crisis.

Cooperation from the public?

Unsurprisingly, the two representatives of the Thai government on the panel had more definitive views.

Dr. Taweesilp Visanuyothin from Thailand’s Health Department said that controlling an epidemic required 90% cooperation from the population. Also that the Thai people had given it.

“I ascribe our success to the spirit of cooperation of the public”, he said. Adding that the messaging to the public had been clear and consistent. He did, however, concede mistakes had been made.

Government efficiency?

Dr.Tanarak Plipat, deputy director general of the Department of Disease Control, agreed with Dr Taweesilp. Saying that ordinary citizens deserved much of the credit. Paying tribute to the “spirit of togetherness” of the Thai people in a crisis.

Dr. Tanarak, however, was also keen to assert Thailand’s robust health security system were largely responsible for the countries success. He cited the willingness of politicians to let health department experts call the shots; the coordination and cooperation between government departments; as well as provincial and local bodies across the country; the clarity of communications to the public about how to avoid disease transmission; and the “universal precaution” attitude. Assuming that you and everybody else has the disease until proven otherwise.

Mass mobilization of healthcare workers?

Dr. Tanarak highlighted the work of more than 1000 epidemiological teams across Thailand. They have been able to investigate every single case. And also trace every contact and monitor them for 14 days.

Looking to the future, disease control specialist Dr. Tanarak said that if new case numbers stay low, Thailand would begin to create travel bubbles. Opening up international travel with other low-risk countries.

But the first foreigners allowed back in, he said, are likely to be business people based in the country. They will be subject to the same testing and quarantine requirements currently applied to Thais.