As China’s infection rate climbed throughout January, the rest of Southeast Asia worried they’d suffer from a high number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths.
But that’s not what happened in Thailand.
As the first country outside of China to document a Coronavirus case, the kingdom immediately implemented partial lockdowns, travel restrictions, and contact tracing (where over 1,000 epidemiological teams tracked every contact and monitored them for 14 days). But the most effective precaution was wearing a mask. With 95% of Thais reporting that they wear masks in public, Thailand’s death rate is 100 times lower than projected at the outset of the pandemic.
Wednesday, Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration, reported that the country has had no new infections in the last 30 days. “It shows the importance of Thai people-power, which has kept the country free of the disease for one month.”
As of today, Thailand has conducted 468,175 tests and has a total of 3,157 confirmed cases and 58 deaths. By comparison, in the US, the death rate is 450 times higher.
As NPR’s Michael Sullivan reported earlier this week, wearing masks has put Thailand in a good position to reopen businesses even though ongoing economic impact is still a big concern: “It means almost all businesses shuttered by the lockdown are now open. But manufacturing is now only starting to rebound, and the virus has gutted the country’s tourism industry, which accounts for as much as 20% of the country’s GDP. Government handouts of $150 a month have reached millions, but many others in the informal sector or migrant workers from neighboring countries have gone without. And many jobs, especially in tourism, may not be coming back.”
With such a low number of new cases, expect much of the retail sector in Thailand to recover quickly and start growing again. Pure e-commerce has performed well throughout the pandemic (as shown in the chart below), and thanks to the more stringent precautions taken by citizens, Thais will be more inclined to visit brick-and-mortar stores even after so many consumers have shifted to online shopping.