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How did Thailand contain COVID-19?

Thailand lifted its nationwide curfew just this week after it celebrated 21 days without any new local case of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Since the pandemic started, the Southeast Asian country had only 3,135 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with only 58 deaths.

This can be attributed to the fact that Thailand, after hearing of an “unknown disease” in Wuhan likened to pneumonia, imposed a strict screening system for anyone coming into the country from the Chinese city.

They imposed this policy as early as Jan. 3.

By Jan. 5, the country further imposed strict restrictions after the World Health Organization released its official statement on the new virus.

Airports were given strict supervision and people who had respiratory symptoms were immediately isolated.

READ: How Vietnam successfully contained COVID-19

Thailand also launched a hotline for its citizens in Chinese provinces hit by the virus who wished to go back to their home country.

It was only on Jan. 13 when the country reported its first COVID-19 case, also the first case of the virus outside of China.

The patient was a 61-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan. When she landed at the airport, she was immediately detected to have symptoms and was sent to a hospital for further examinations.

Come February, the country had launched a wide health screening and surveillance system to keep track of the pandemic.

Thailand’s National Research Council also released an online self-screening tool for citizens who wanted to know if they were infected.

With sections for those “not infected,” who “need to observe symptoms,” and “need to see a doctor at the nearest hospital,” the tool provided the citizens with the information they needed.

By March 24, over 827 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Thailand.

Because of this, the government announced a state of emergency in the country.

Different provincial governors were assigned by the National Communicable Disease Committee to create action plans to screen, find cases, and prevent the disease from spreading.

Public gatherings and liquor were prohibited, and a curfew was imposed.

Aside from sending 29 million surgical masks to different hospitals in the country, Thailand also urged its citizens to wear cloth masks every time they went out.

By April, the increase of COVID-19 cases in Thailand slowed down. Days came when they would only record a single-digit number of COVID-19 cases.

The recovery rate of those with COVID-19 in the country reached 90 percent.

To avoid a second wave of the disease, Thailand imposed a “trace, test, and treat” strategy where they imposed active case finding and targeted surveillance in vulnerable populations and high risk venues.

Healthcare workers, taxi and bus drivers, delivery workers, migrant workers and informal settlers were actively tested, and if anyone came out positive, they would immediately be isolated.

At the start of June, the number of COVID-19 cases in Thailand dwindled, with most of the cases being Thai repatriates from other countries.

In a few months, local transmission of the disease had become a rare occurrence.

Although the number of cases decreased, health protocols continued and citizens were advised to remain cautious so the virus wouldn’t spread.

The government also prioritized finding a vaccine and going into partnerships with various countries in search for a cure. – RC, GMA News