Thailand is now gripped by its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the pandemic began, spread in part by well-heeled Thais who partied in Phuket and Bangkok with no social distancing. The confirmed daily caseload — albeit low by global standards — has increased from 26 on April 1 to more than 2,000 three weeks later, this in a country that had about 4,000 total cases in early December.
For months, Thailand’s strict quarantines, lockdowns, border vigilance and rigorous use of masks kept the virus at bay, although the economy suffered. But even as the last couple of weeks have brought repeated daily caseload highs, the Thai government is reacting slowly.
In early April, as cases began to mount, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha reacted with a verbal shrug.
“Whatever happens, happens,” he said.
Desperate to resuscitate its tourism sector, Phuket, which had shut its airport during a Covid spike last year, continued to allow people in this spring on domestic flights, even as cases reached record highs. Only on Thursday did the local authorities start requiring Covid-19 screening for those arriving on the island.