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Thailand’s Spike In New Cases Could Impact Tourism Reopening

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With well-deserved high praise and recognition from the World Health Organization (WHO), Thailand’s tough measures and skilled handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has set an example for others to follow – not just in Asia, but around the world. With just 4,053 cases and only 60 deaths, there are few countries how can match Thailand’s efforts at controlling the spread of the virus.

thailand mask temperature check

However, an uncharacteristic spike in cases of the virus has caused concern and doubt amongst Thai citizens, as 107 new cases were confirmed in the last week – above the weekly average. Here’s a look at where the cases have come from, what Thailand is doing about it and what this means about travel prospects in the new year.

Thailand Received Over 1000 International Tourists in October

Migrant Workers Return

The main cause for alarm in Thailand has been positive Covid-19 test result from Thai citizens who made illegal border crossings from Myanmar. Myanmar is currently suffering from a deluge of cases of the virus, with an average of 1,421 cases per day and total infections rapidly heading towards the 100,000 mark.

As many as ten recent Covid-19 cases in Thailand have been attributed to Thais who took the clandestine trip through natural passages from the Myanmar border town of Tachilek to neighboring Chiang Rai province. In doing so, the workers avoided having to be quarantined and managed to travel many places whilst unknowingly infected with the virus. Some of those infected visited various different provinces such as Chiang Mai and Ratchaburi, whilst others frequented bars and even took domestic flights to Bangkok before it emerged that they had contracted the virus.

Thailand’s Response

Thai authorities are now searching for those who may have come into contact with the newly-infected patients. So far, the search has yielded one positive case of Covid-19 from one of the patrons of a bar frequented by those who crossed the border. Two further positive tests came from women who were friends with one of those who worked in Tachilek. Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha claimed that officials have tested more than 100 people that came into contact with the border crossers, and are working to track down more.

thailand tourist with mask

Following the news that one of the positive cases had visited a karaoke bar and a shopping mall in Chiang Mai, the city has been placed on high alert, and has begun disinfesting areas that the woman had visited. Thailand’s Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul stated that those who made the illegal crossing will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, whilst the Prime Minister has ordered the military to help protect the 2,400km border with Myanmar.

thailand reopening airports

Travel Repercussions

As many Southeast Asian leaders call for a travel bubble between their nations, incidents such as this are likely to prolong the waiting time for such things to come to fruition. One of the key reasons for Thailand’s Covid-19 success story has been its fierce border control; this week’s news headlines have called that into question.

thailand stv long term visa announcement

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that some provinces in Thailand could move into lockdown. At the start of the pandemic, Thailand went into a full, national lockdown, before handing power over to provinces to dictate their own terms. Should more positive cases be found in Chiang Mai, it may well happen there. This would come as a particular blow, with a long weekend coming up next week and Chiang Mai proving to be popular with domestic tourists.

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Tuesday 8th of December 2020

Each nation around the world is UNIQUE in handling the situation. The number of people, different culture and politics play a big role facing this epidemic. Each day is a different assessment. Let’s not beat around the bush, this virus has been politicized. Xenophobia and paranoia have been exposed ever more with the handling of the disease in nations around the world.

Secured Thai borders, no foreigners allowed in did not reflect the exposed inadequacy in the Northern Thai province bordering Myanmar.

Thais’ display of affection is not shown, more so with eye contact and keep an arm’s length from each other in public. Greetings consists of a slight bow, with the palms flattened together displaying a “Wai” gesture (in a prayer-like fashion). The personal space and lack of touching with one another may be one of several factors that may possibly reduce the virus transmission.

However unaffordable testing for the average Thai citizens may well not point out the exact number of possible asymptomatic cases let alone death cases linked to the disease. Some expats in Thailand may still have some reservation with the low number of cases or death. So words of praise and WHO acting like the happy parent will not change anything.


Friday 4th of December 2020

Amazingly funny for a nation with so many people who are stateless and granted no citizenship there, who always cross the many borders without notice, to believe it will "close the borders" and control the virus -- especially when the adjacent countries are, in some cases, some of the largest growers of opium in the world, with fields patrolled by ethnic separatists and militias (not to mention yaba). You have to feel sorry for Thailand's people; they are protesting their government with good reason. Thailand, like all countries, will not be able to stop the spread of COVID. Thailand, like few countries, is particularly poorly positioned to do so. Sorry they won't let tourists even contribute to their economy in the meantime.


Friday 4th of December 2020

I don't understand the end game here. It's a fair bet that Covid will be around for many years, regardless of a vaccine. So if zero local transmission is the only acceptable outcome then closed borders and regular lockdowns might be indefinite. Of course my lack of comprehension doesn't mean they aren't justified as a sovereign nation to create whatever rules they want.

But I have yet to read or hear anyone in a position of power state what is an acceptable level of transmission and what the long term plan is if the virus doesn't miraculously disappear one morning. Even more confused that the citizens of these countries aren't demanding answers to these questions.

Especially places like Australia that have travel built into their collective DNA. IF defeating Covid is worth giving up the right to travel, but Covid doesn't go away, how long do you accept having your rights diminished in the interest of fighting an unwinnable war?


Sunday 6th of December 2020

Most think of the vaccine as a magic silver bullet that will eradicate the virus. They are all too hung up on this idea to have a plan B. They'll eventually realize covid will still be around regardless, but it will be a little bit (or a lot) too late.


Friday 4th of December 2020

I would be surprised if Thailand does anything different as far as foreigners are concerned. They already have a pretty complex and restrictive system in place for anyone wanting to visit. Including an expensive mandatory 14 day quarantine. Domestically the numbers are still incredibly low even with this small outbreak. Most of the total in the article are people found infected during the quarantine process. It's doubtful Chiang Mai locks down, even if they do there are so few foreign tourist in Thailand right now it wouldn't make much difference. As it is the Tourist Authority of Thailand doesn't expect real tourism to begin again until March of 2021 at the earliest.


Friday 4th of December 2020

At this point any country that decimates its economy to try to "stop" this lame virus deserves what it gets. I just feel bad for the people who see through the nonsense and want to be free. But these governments know what they are doing, they are taking marching orders from the World Economic Forum and World Bank. They care nothing for their own people because they are globalist scum.