100 days of no local transmissions, but Thailand suffered severely

Local tourists wear masks while shopping in central Bangkok. (Photo: Apichit Jinakul / Bangkok Post)

Thailand has reported zero locally-transmitted Covid-19 cases for 100 days in a row, joining a small group of places like Taiwan where the pathogen has been virtually eliminated.

The country hasn’t recorded any community transmission since May 26, data from the Health Ministry on Wednesday showed. Authorities are still finding infections among travellers arriving at the tourist hotspot’s borders, but these people are quarantined and only allowed into the community after they’re recovered.

Like Taiwan and New Zealand, another country that made it past 100 days before local infections re-emerged, Thailand’s success has relied on strictly-policed borders that have been closed to foreigners for months. The strategy has come at great cost to people’s livelihoods, with its iconic beaches and cultural sites making it one of the most tourism-reliant economies in the world.

“We contained the virus, and now is really the time to focus on the economy — the longer we close the borders, the more damage it will have,” said Somprawin Manprasert, chief economist at Bank of Ayudhya Plc in Bangkok. “Without proper policies, the exit of some businesses and workforces could cut the country’s long term growth by 0.5% each year, which is significant for a country that’s also rapidly ageing.”

Although the local population is being encouraged to travel domestically and spend, the activity can’t compensate for the loss of income from international tourists. In 2019, Thailand received nearly 40 million foreign visitors, but so far this year less than 7 million have entered the country.

Thailand’s other economic pillar besides tourism — manufacturing — has also been battered by a global slump in demand amid the pandemic, and the country faces one of the worst outlooks among emerging economies in Asia. The Finance Ministry forecasts Thailand’s economy will shrink by 8.5% this year, heading for its worst contraction on record.

WRITER: Bloomberg
Source: Bangkok Post