Sep 2, 2020 - World

Thailand goes 100 days with no local coronavirus cases

 Thai students wear face masks and sit at desks with plastic screens used for social distancing at the Wat Khlong Toey School on August 10, 2020 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Thai students wear face masks and sit at desks with plastic screens used for social distancing at the Wat Khlong Toey School in Bangkok, Thailand, in August after lockdown measures eased. Photo: Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

Thailand on Wednesday marked 100 days with no detected local coronavirus cases, per the health ministry.

Why it matters: The Southeast Asian country joins a small club of places "like Taiwan where the pathogen has been virtually eliminated," Bloomberg notes. Thailand was the first country outside China to report a COVID-19 case.

The big picture: There have been no community transmission reported since May 26. The country's borders remain closed to foreigners.

  • Some returned travelers have the virus, but they are in quarantine — including eight new cases reported Wednesday.
  • Thailand has so far avoided seeing a domestic re-emergence of the virus unlike New Zealand, which reintroduced restrictions after reporting 102 days with no detected local cases.

What they did: Thailand imposed a sweeping national lockdown in March, but restrictions have since been relaxed and schools and businesses began to reopen in June, with safeguards in place against the virus, including screens, face shields and hand sanitizers.

  • Thailand stepped up domestic production of coronavirus testing kits in July.
  • Adherence to wearing face masks, an "army of health volunteers" in villages and universal health coverage have contributed to the success, according to Bloomberg.

Yes, but: Thailand's strict measures have hurt the economy, which is heavily reliant on tourism. Last month, the country reported its economy contracted 12.2% on-year in the second quarter — "its deepest economic contraction since the Asian financial crisis in 1998," CNBC notes.

  • The government has indicated it plans to reopen its borders, though details have yet to be released.

The bottom line: "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," Somprawin Manprasert, chief economist at Bank of Ayudhya Pcl in Bangkok told Bloomberg.

  • "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 aging."
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