COVID-19 in Thailand...FACTUAL updates, information, and thoughts.

As an expat living in Thailand right now (Chiang Mai), I'm optimistic about how things are going here right now, but still quite concerned.

While everything seems to be on an even-keel here, there is a lot of confusion about what the real state of affairs is right at the moment, and more importantly, not so much consistent and reliable information coming from official channels, so I wanted to start this thread for people to share RESPONSIBLE views and information so that we all can feel better informed.

PLEASE don't share unfounded information, conspiracy theories, or other nonsense, particularly troll-like stuff even though I'm sure that will happen.  This is intended to be a serious thread so that we all can feel better informed and prepared for what might be ahead of us as expats living in the Kingdom.

Today Friday 20th I live in a village 100 km south of CM. in the Hot District the village head has closed this village until the first of April. This is because a person has been reported to have been isolated in the nearby Hod Hospital.

One of the reasons I am starting this thread is that official announcements are very sketchy at best right now.  Many discrepancies are starting to pile up lately.  They range from delays in announcing cases, airport invitations to see body heat scanners officially “not in use” before being declared “there all along,” and overly bold assurances that had to be walked back.

Many of the official statements fly in the face of the advice of the World Health Organization, which has long considered transparent, timely and reliable public information critical to combating health threats.

Certainly, during an emergent health crisis, genuine mistakes and miscommunication are to be expected. But taken altogether, Thailand’s pattern of misstatements, contradictions and self-serving revisions suggest that a desire to sugarcoat the situation has taken precedence over “pro-active communication.”

To date, the health ministry has refused to disclose where infected patients have visited or likely were exposed, as Singapore does with each case. They cite privacy and fear of mass panic, but end up provoking the opposite effect – intensifying online rumors.

To me, this is extremely troubling!  Local-based agencies and the public-at-large should know exactly where viral spread is occurring so that appropriate measures can be taken immediately

Narin Hiransuthikul, expert in epidemiology at Chulalongkorn University, said that while he’s quite certain the authorities aren’t hiding any infected patients, he fears the official number is just “the tip of an iceberg.”

Of the millions thus screened at airports, only 219 suspected cases had been detected at Thailand’s ports of entry as of Thursday, according to the Health Ministry. The majority of cases have been detected by sick people who went to get themselves tested at hospitals.

Facing accusations that they were reluctant to impose stricter rules for foreigners, Sopon Iamsirithawon of the Communicable Disease Division said Wednesday that Thai people carrying the disease from abroad have more potential to cause a wider outbreak. However, epidemiologist Narin said letting foreigners come in without a proper regulation was more worrying.  He said the authorities’ response to this outbreak appears “too mild.”

“The government keeps saying that we have a low number of infected patients, but the miss here is that their preventative measures are not strict enough,” he said. “Many things are still unclear. Even the quarantine enforcement doesn’t seem to be that serious.”

He urged the government to be more swift in response and be more clear in how they communicate with the public.

“From an epidemiologist’s perspective, we should always assume the worst, so that we’ll be able to prevent it from happening,” he added. “If we keep being optimistic, we won’t be able to handle it in time.”

The public website for the Ministry of Public Health in Thailand is woefully inadequate at providing updated information and statistics.  Public messages that are not posted often, and when they are they seem to conflict with other government departments or are retracted or changed in the next update.  There just seems to be no clear and unified message coming from officials, and at least IMO, that is really troubling, especially when you see the number of new cases escalating almost daily now.

Since officials seem reluctant to release information about the geographic location of cases, a third party app has come into existence providing such information, based on news reports, etc. The data is depicted very simply in a map format, and the data collection seems to be very responsible and up to date, so I feel pretty comfortable providing a link to it.  it's called Covid Tracker and is made available by a company called 5Lab (google it if the link does not work.  It can be viewed at
https://covidtracker.5lab.co/

I looked at the Covid 19 tracker and have noticed that the one case from the Hod Hospital has not been added to the list yet it was reported.

Barry343 :

I looked at the Covid 19 tracker and have noticed that the one case from the Hod Hospital has not been added to the list yet it was reported.

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I'm not certain but I believe there is a way to alert them to data that should be updated.  Remember that they are compiling all of this data manually, and primarily from news reports.  I'm certain that your input would be appreciated by them, and all of us as well.

I'm not very happy about how things are progressing here in Thailand at the moment, and I really wish the government would get MUCH MORE PRO-ACTIVE in their strategies, and the individual people in charge would all get on the same page with their messaging, and be much more transparent about things.

In countries that are more proactive, it is a different story.  In Vietnam for instance, all borders have been closed to foreigners, and the public is kept up-to-date with completely transparent and detailed daily briefings that can be delivered right to your smartphone as text messages.  As a result, the number of active cases are dramatically less that in Thailand.

Currently (as of today, 22 Mar) there are 9 total cases per 1 million of population in Thailand.  In Vietnam, there is only 1 case per million.

Why on earth is Thailand not taking the same bold measures?

Presently (22 March) there are now 599 confirmed cases, of which 554 are active cases.  This number has been jumping higher daily now for several days.  On 21 March it was 368 active cases, and on the previous day (the 20th) it was 279.

If viewed as number of cases per 1 million of population (which gives a much better idea of the severity of the outbreak, compared with other countries), it was 5 total cases per 1 million of population on 20 Mar, 6 on 21 Mar, and now today it is 9 total cases per 1 million of population today, 22 March.

Of course it is still much better than in the USA for instance where it is currently 81 total cases per million, or in Italy where is is 886 total cases per million, but the rapid rise here in Thailand just makes me worry.

I fully realize that, on the surface, all seems relatively well here in Thailand.  People are concerned but the number of reported cases seemingly indicate that we are far better off than many other places. 

There are two problems though.  1) How many unreported cases are there right now (people that may not even realize they are infected but are still spreading the virus to others)?  And 2) How many new infections are resulting from lax social distancing enforcement, that will become confirmed cases as days start to pass, and how many additional people will become infected from those cases before they are confirmed?

The problem with a virus that has exponential growth, is that the severity of the problem isn't apparent in the numbers until it has already gotten out of control.

Yes, it seems like the authorities are reacting to outbreaks by imposing stricter measures like recent announcements that many more public venues will be temporarily shut down BUT that is not enough.

it just seems to me like they should get out ahead of this, and start being PROACTIVE instead of waiting for something like the Lumpini boxing stadium incident to occur, and then merely reacting to it. 

Much of the recent rise in cases is directly attributable to that single event!  It was SO avoidable if the government had taken a more proactive approach at banning high-resik public gathering like that event before it happened.  Now all of those people who attended the event have travelled back to their homes in many different provinces, and many of them were probably infected, and now spreading the virus to others throughout the entire Kingdom!

The window of opportunity is really closing fast for Thai authorities to get a handle on all of this.  I hope they do, and do it fast!

The link (under review in above post) refers to the Lumpini boxing stadium event last week, that is largely responsible for the  huge jump in reported cases of COVID-19 in the last few days here in Thailand.  Google for the Bangkok Post article describing the the outbreak resulting from the event.

Australia with closed borders have risen to 21 per million as of 6 am today 22 nd March. The main carries of bringing the Covid 19 into Australia was released as from, tourist's and backpackers who came from the USA. The real truth is that Thailand figures will begin to rise sharply over the next few weeks because of the Government not closing the borders at the beginning of this month

Barry343 :

Australia with closed borders have risen to 21 per million as of 6 am today 22 nd March. The main carries of bringing the Covid 19 into Australia was released as from, tourist's and backpackers who came from the USA. The real truth is that Thailand figures will begin to rise sharply over the next few weeks because of the Government not closing the borders at the beginning of this month

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I agree with that 100%  Why do they not close the borders?  It seems crazy to me.  The Health Minister, when asked why more stern social distancing mandates were not in place, why borders remain open, even to people from high-risk countries, and why very little testing is actually happening (i.e.: with suspected but asymptomatic cases, or at ports of entry where the only test is a thermo-scan and filling out a health declaration...both completely inadequate measures)...he had two things to say, and both don't exactly inspire confidence AT ALL.

He said, 1) They do not want to add unnecessary stress to an already fragile economy by taking measure that might not be necessary at this point (i.e.: limiting tourism revenues unnecessarily), or expending resources that are quite limited now (i.e.: testing kits to test suspected but asymptomatic people), and 2) they don't want to risk public panic.

Both responses not only fly in the face of the WHO official guidelines and what most responsible nation in the world are starting to do, but it will eventually lead to panic as the public begins to lose faith in official messaging, especially when that messaging has been sporadic, and often contradictory.

There are a number of "gold standard" countries right now that are handling the outbreak in a highly effective and efficient manner such as South Korea and Singapore.  Even Vietnam is doing it right.  Thailand should really start modelling their approach after countries like these IMHO.

pardon, i just gave it all a quick read...but to answer the question as to why they did not seal the borders in early January:
1. corruption.
2. why they waited until March 11 (!!!!!) to stop VOA for the country where the outbreak occurred (China): corruption.
3. why there are not more cases announced: 1. they are not testing people. 2. they initially told people to not go to the hospital if they had symptoms.
seriously! if you have been visiting thailand for more than a couple years, you know all the backroom deals going on and clearly many in gov't had been getting those envelopes. Also there is simply greed....but that's a global phenomena.
4. The leaders of this country, became the leaders by a coup (they threw out a democratically elected leader, and the more recent elections were a sham). They are cops, cops should not be leading countries. Their resumes are not impressive. For example juust compare Thanathorn to Prayut....in terms of education and experience....ha!
4. other countries have seen rapid rises, in part because of 1. increased testing 2. china covered-up the outbreak, and thus the "patient zero" research (how fast, and how the virus spreads) was delayed considerably. 3. And then there is the more serious issue of solutions to such viral infections --which were being studied-- not being properly funded because big pharma goes after big money (large markets).

To date, the leading scientists, still do not know how infectious those who show no symptoms are! (thus the theatre of the temperature gauges).

Of course as with all countries that censor information, and have high levels of corruption, they will be crushed by pandemics like these. The only upside in this case is the lifestyle factor of many thais, and the time of year. That is, the Thais tends to not shake hands, are much cleaner in general than their neighbors, and the weather results in people being less close to each other, and there is some research which suggests that the virus does not last as long on warmer surfaces, and cannot travel as far, in warmer air.


There's my O2. Hopefully the powers that be will not chase me down or put me on a list! (or you) Because as you know, YOU are being watched to some extent.

In all fairness to the Thai Government, the situation is a very complex one because the economic impact of the virus is just as critical as the public health aspects, particularly for a country whose economy is as fragile as Thailand's is.

Any country's strategy for dealing with this crisis must take into account the economic as well as public health aspects.  Each has dire consequences if not addressed.  It really comes down to a delicate balancing act.

If people don't have money in their pocket, they can not eat or pay their rent.  That has just as dire consequences as contracting the virus.  At the same time, if too many people contract the virus at the same time, hospitals will become overwhelmed, and many will die, not as a direct result of the virus, but as a result of the healthcare system not being able to provide adequate care for the seriously ill.

So, the question becomes, How do you protect the public health while at the same time keep the economic engine running?  That is what makes this so hard to deal with for every single nation being affected.

Some might argue, economic consequences be damned; saving lives is more important than saving the economy, but if an economy collapses occurs (which is a very real possibility in any country, no matter how wealthy it may be), it can have very real "life & death" consequences.  One only need look at what was happening in Venezuela before the pandemic.

Effective real world strategies for dealing with the pandemic must address economic realities as well as public health realities because if a proper balance is not achieved, people's lives are at risk.

I really don't think the Thai government's present response to the crisis is due to corruption or negligences of the system.  All government bureaucracies, no matter what nation you look at are complex and cumbersome, and given to gross inefficiencies, but very few have nothing but good intentions for their citizens (unless you are talking about Communist regimes such as in North Korea, and to a certain extent in China).

To date, Thailand has been critically concerned with maintaining the economy, and rightfully they should be, considering that even before this crisis, the economy was in very real trouble here since tourism is really the lifeblood of the Thai economy, and was already at record lows last year.

Nobody questions that Thailand has erred on the side of preserving tourism-related revenues as much as possible during this crisis.  It's not out of greed or ignorance; it is out of necessity.  Thailand is not a wealthy country and doesn't have nearly the same reserve capacity to support its' citizens the way wealthier nations like the US does.

Have mistakes been made by Thai officials in dealing with this crisis?  Of course there have, but it's easy to have 20/20 hindsight; it's far different when you take into account that there is no blueprint on how to deal with the crisis.  It is a totally unprecedented situation for everybody all around the world.

I can't really fault Thai officials for the steps they have take to date, except for the thing they have always done poorly and that is poor communication with the public.  If you've lived in Thailand as an expat for any length of time, this should be more than obvious.  Dealing with Thai Immigration is a perfect example of this.

It needn't be this way.  Vietnam has the same economic challenges as Thailand does and yet they have fared far better in dealing with this crisis, and in keeping the public well informed, and in being totally transparent in how they do it.  They also made mistakes early on, but were quick to make corrections along the way.

Mistakes are often made in the initial stages of any national crisis.  Nowhere is this more true than in the United States.  But, as WInston Churchill once said, "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else..

I just hope that Thailand does the same thing and learns from their mistakes.  The Lumpini Boxing stadium debacle was a red flag that seems to have prompted a major shift in government strategy on becoming more proactive in dealing with this crisis.  I just hope they continue to do so.

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