As bad as it seems at the moment, the Covid-19 situation in Thailand could in fact be much worse. The United States and the countries of Europe are experiencing fatality rates per million of the population between 100 and 700 times worse than they are here.
Why Thailand’s outbreak has not (or not yet) reached the levels seen in so many other countries is both remarkable and hard to explain. It’s not that there’s been insufficient time for it to do so. On January 13th, Thailand was the first country outside of China to report a case of novel coronavirus, and with over 1 million tourists from China entering this country in January alone many people at the time considered Thailand as the most likely next hot spot for a coronavirus outbreak.
Respiratory infections such as seasonal influenza do tend to increase here during the rainy season, so perhaps our time is yet to come. Nonetheless: so far so good.
Probably there is no single factor responsible. The hot climate might be shortening survival of virus on surfaces, and the social distancing that’s built into Thai culture, in that people here tend to touch each other much less than Europeans do for instance, may also have helped. Recently it has been suggested that the uptake of TB vaccination (which for over 40 years has been given to all newborn babies in Thailand) may in some way be associated with reduced susceptibility to coronavirus also.
Whatever the full explanation, the country is indebted to the dedication and efficiency of it’s grassroots public health staff, who are working incredibly hard to trace, quarantine and follow up the contacts of every identified case.
We can all assist those public health workers by playing our part. Staying at home whenever possible helps to break the chain of infection. Evidence is now showing that people can be infectious for a few days before they develop any symptoms, and because none of us know if we are going to be sick tomorrow then none of us can know that we are not infectious today.
When you do have to go out, as well as wearing a face mask, remember that you still need to take steps to look after your own health: avoid touching the front of the face mask, wash your hands as often as possible and don’t stand close to other people. When removing your face mask, do so carefully and wash your hands afterwards.
To support Be Well members who are trying to avoid leaving their home we recently started to offer video consultations with our doctors. (More details are available on the webpage.) Although not every medical situation can be managed this way, we think that it can be a useful option in the right circumstances. Indeed, in the post-Covid world, it’s not hard to imagine that video consultations might become a routine option for accessing medical services generally. It seems that in many ways our lives are unlikely to be the same as they were before this pandemic.
The Be Well Team
Hua Hin, April 11, 2020