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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."

Go deeper

The hurdles we face before reaching herd immunity

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Once 75%–80% of people get vaccinated against the coronavirus, there should be strong enough herd immunity that we can return to normal activities, NIAID director Anthony Fauci tells Axios.

Driving the news: The FDA is meeting with outside experts today as the agency considers granting an emergency use authorization to Pfizer-BioNTech for their COVID-19 vaccine. A similar meeting is slated for next week to discuss a vaccine developed by Moderna.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Dec 10, 2020 - Health

An economic tradeoff everyone agrees on

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

All lives are equally valuable. That's the strong consensus emerging from the many different countries and organizations that have struggled with the question of who should get first access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Why it matters: The current scarcity of the vaccine looks like an economics problem — too much demand, and not enough supply. But no one is seriously proposing a market-based solution, where the vaccine goes first to those willing and able to pay to jump to the front of the line.