Everything You Need to Know About the Coronavirus in Thailand
If you’re planning a trip to literally anywhere, I’m sure you’ve heard the news. But what about the coronavirus in Thailand, specifically? There’s so much news coverage across the world and with new cases being reported every day, it’s only right that you find the most up to date information to help you plan your trip.
We’ve previously put together some coronavirus prevention tactics to help make sure you have a healthy holiday, and it’s great that so many of you have read the article and taken our advice on board. Each country is different, however, so we’re taking a closer look at coronavirus in Thailand in particular. This is an important issue and you want to be as clued up as possible.
How worried should you be about coronavirus in Thailand?
In a country of 69 million people, many of whom travel abroad on a regular basis, it’s inevitable that there have been some coronavirus cases reported in Thailand. At the time of publishing this blog (03/02/20), there have been 41 confirmed cases of the illness, of whom 22 people have recovered and 18 are currently still sick.
While this is a worrying number however, it’s important to keep it in perspective. In 2019, 39.8 million people visited Thailand, which is an impressive number and which really puts the 41 cases of coronavirus in context. The number of cases is currently absolutely miniscule compared to the size of the population and the number of people visiting each year!
How serious is catching Coronavirus?
The prospect of catching the coronavirus flu is not a nice one, and it’s important to practice good hygiene to avoid either contracting it or passing it on. It’s worth underlining though, that most people only experience mild symptoms when they catch it, and it’s been likened to a reasonably mild version of the normal flu.
The World Health Organization is monitoring the situation and has revealed that the people most at risk of developing a severe illness are older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Preventative Measures of Coronavirus in Thailand
Thailand is taking coronavirus seriously, and there are lots of measures being taken to prevent it from spreading within the country. The first thing you’ll see when you land in a Thai airport looks like a scene from a sci-fi film, but is actually a very sensible way to make sure everyone in the airport is safe and well.
As you walk off the plane and along the arrivals concourse, you’ll be met with cordoned-off areas with plenty of smiling staff on duty. The cordons are to create corridors for you to walk along single-file, where an electronic thermal camera will film you and take your temperature to pick up anyone who has flu-like symptoms.
It’s easy, quick, efficient and incredibly reassuring.
This simple system actually makes flying the best way to get around, as you can be sure that your fellow travelers are as healthy as you are and you can relax into your holiday experience. The bus stations, train stations and ferry ports don’t have the same screening arrangements yet, but of course that may change going forward.
The following airports have screening processes in place:Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok
• Don Mueang International Airport, Bangkok
• Chiang Mai International Airport
• Krabi International Airport
• Chiang Rai International Airport
The Timeline of Coronavirus in Thailand
Thailand actually reported the first case of coronavirus outside China, but that case was a Chinese citizen from Wuhan who flew into Bangkok on the 8th January. Her high temperature and flu symptoms were actually picked up on the Suvarnabhumi airport thermal scanners and she was hospitalized immediately, thus proving that the scanning system definitely works!
The second case was also a Chinese resident who arrived in Bangkok with symptoms on the 17th January, and is in hospital receiving treatment now.
On the 22nd January the first Thai resident tested positive for coronavirus, although she had just visited Wuhan and contracted the illness there rather than in Thailand.
On the 28th January, several more cases were reported across the country, and Thailand began screening all travelers from China for symptoms of the disease.
The first case of someone getting ill who hadn’t just been to China was reported on 31st January, when a Thai taxi driver tested positive after having given a lift to a Chinese tourist
In early February several more cases were reported, mostly of people who had either traveled to China, transited through Chinese airports, or people working in the tourist industry with direct contact with Chinese tourists
Following an 8-day break with no new cases, there were two more positive test results in Thailand on 24th February
The most recent cases reported in Thailand are of a local family who have been on holiday to Japan, and a Thai tour guide who has recently traveled to South Korea.
Coronavirus in Bangkok
As the capital city, Bangkok has seen a higher number of cases than elsewhere in the country, however in a city of 8.3 million people the numbers are proportionally still tiny. One way that Bangkok has been contributing globally is by pioneering treatments for coronavirus, and the Rajvithi Hospital has reported successes when using drugs that are normally used for other types of viruses and flu, hopefully advancing the effectiveness of treatments elsewhere.
All of the cases reported in Bangkok so far have either been in people who have recently traveled abroad to China or other destinations in the region, or people who have come into contact with those who have. Officials are offering face masks to people at local temples and tourist sites who might want to use them, but overall there is no spread among the general population.
The most recent cases in the city are linked to a family who had recently visited Hokkaido in Japan, but didn’t immediately disclose that information when questioned by health officials. The message from the Public Health Minister was clear- don’t be an idiot, please be honest when we’re trying to help you!
It’s important to note that normal life is still very much in progress in Thailand and in Bangkok, and with some good, common sense precautions there are no barriers to carrying on as usual. Many government buildings like the Chaeng Watthana Immigration office have implemented the same kinds of screening processes that you’ll see at the airports, to make sure that people stay healthy and well. They’re testing the body temperature of everyone who enters, and are providing hand sanitizer stations. If you go there, then use them! Simple as that. Getting a Thai visa extension in Bangkok is safe, despite the ever-present crowds.
Coronavirus in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has a very low number of cases of coronavirus, and those that have tested positive have been linked to travel abroad.
The most notable case was an 18 year old man who had recently arrived from Wuhan, however his illness improved pretty rapidly and he was discharged from hospital on the 31st January. Following on from this case, there have been a couple of other cases in the north of the country but Chiang Mai has not reported any new cases in recent days.
Coronavirus in Phuket
Phuket is one of the most popular areas of Thailand for foreign visitors, so it’s natural that people are worried about whether it’s still safe to travel.
The simple fact of the matter is that Phuket has seen zero cases of coronavirus to date, and there are no suspected cases currently being tested. The area is healthy and safe and with robust screening procedures in place at the airport, anyone arriving who is unwell will be picked up and treated automatically.
Phuket is an absolutely stunning place to come hang out, and the local economy is reliant on tourism to thrive. Having no coronavirus cases in the area is great news and the bars of Bangla Road are ready and waiting to get you drunk!
The best way to protect yourself from contracting coronavirus is by taking a few good personal hygiene precautions. These are all things which you should be doing anyway to keep yourself healthy on your trip, so it’s no extra bother!
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water, or use an alcohol hand gel with a high alcohol content
- Always cover your nose and mouth with the crook of your elbow or a tissue when you sneeze, and throw the tissue away immediately
- Avoid hanging out with people who don’t feel well, even though they’ve probably just got the common cold!
- Don’t visit any live animal markets. The current outbreak started in an animal market in Wuhan, so it’s better to be safe than sorry
- Avoid undercooked or raw animal products in your food. This will keep your gut healthy throughout your trip, even without the coronavirus!
- Wear a face mask if you have cold or flu symptoms. It’s personal choice as to whether to wear a mask if you still feel healthy, but you definitely should pop one on if you’re starting to feel unwell
Is it safe to travel in Thailand right now?
So having looked at the stats and reviewed the current situation, the question remains- is it safe to travel in Thailand right now? Our answer is a definite YES!
You should take sensible hygiene precautions, of course, but the number of cases is currently so small and the controls in place are so comprehensive that it’s safe to come to Thailand on holiday right now. Most cases of coronavirus are similar to the common flu, and only a very small number of people develop any symptoms that are any more severe. Keep checking in with the World Health Organization for all the latest news, and reassure your mum that you’re going to be fine!
The bars are open, the restaurants are open, our amazing hostels are open and the Land of Smiles is ready and waiting to welcome you.
We’ll leave the last word to infectious disease specialist who knows what she’s talking about:
“Based on symptoms alone, COVID-19 and flu are very difficult to distinguish”.Manisha Juthani, MD, Yale Medicine