Thursday, December 17, 2020

How have Thailand and Cambodia kept Covid cases so low?

 Despite proximity to China, fatalities in Thailand stand at 60, while Cambodia has officially recorded zero.

A dancer wearing a face shield to protect against coronavirus performs at a temple in Bangkok, Thailand. Photograph: Diego Azubel/EPA

Rebecca Ratcliffe
The Guardian

When the coronavirus first began to spread rapidly in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Thailand appeared especially vulnerable. It was the first country outside China to report a case of Covid-19, when, on 13 January, a 61-year-old woman from Wuhan was confirmed to have tested positive in Bangkok. Thailand was in its peak tourist season, welcoming travellers from around the world. A major outbreak seemed almost inevitable.

Yet, 11 months later, like many of its south-east Asian neighbours, Thailand has so far avoided the worst of the virus.

As of 15 December, Thailand has recorded 4,246 infections since the start of the year – just over a fifth of the cases recorded on Monday alone in the UK. Fatalities stand at 60.

Prof Anucha Apisarnthanarak, chief of the infectious diseases division at Thammasat University, said the country’s success was down to clear communication by health experts, a willingness to allow scientists to lead the response and an effective lockdown, which was followed by the public.

“I think one of the most impactful interventions was universal mask wearing,” he added. “We did it not because we knew [it would be effective] but because somehow this is the Asian culture.” There is, Anucha said, now evidence to suggest that this significantly lowered the number of infections and deaths.  Read more >>