The 2019 Novel Coronavirus is dominating the news in the region. A lot of expats and visitors are wondering what the actual situation is and what steps they can take.
In this preliminary guide, we are going to give you an overview of important findings, news, research and how-tos that aims to serve as a one-stop resource for anyone who is staying or coming to Thailand and trying to familiarize themselves with the situation.
It was our objective to keep things as factual as possible without inflating the dangers for clicks.
Please keep in mind that the authors are not infectious disease specialists. While we asked medical professionals to provide feedback on the accuracy of the information, this article is meant to be taken as ‘best effort’ in a time of uncertainty and with many details not yet known. It’s provided ‘as is’ and without any warranty or guarantees.
Hopefully most of this will only be of informative nature and not something you’ll get in touch first hand.
- How many people in Thailand have been infected so far?
- How is Thailand dealing with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus?
- Declaration of State of Emergency
- Shut Downs in Risky Provinces
- Shut Downs of Schools, Universities, and National Parks
- Promotion of Social Distancing
- Postponement of Water Festival
- Additional Measures for In-Bound Passengers
- Cancellation of Visas-On-Arrival
- Cancellation of International Flights
- Planning to Help Overstayers
- Thermal Scanners, Hand Sanitizers, and Surgical Masks
- What happens when someone is infected with the virus in Thailand?
- Is it safe to travel to Thailand?
- Can I still ship items to Thailand?
- How to get updated with the current virus situation in Thailand?
- More About Coronavirus
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Useful Links
- Now, on to You
How many people in Thailand have been infected so far?
Every day, the Ministry of Public Health Thailand website publishes their latest number of total confirmed cases, severe cases, discharged patients, and deaths.
There are reports that these numbers don’t capture all cases in Thailand, and that there may be a large number of undiagnosed or asymptomatic cases.
Nevertheless, it provides a rough idea of the current rate of spread.
The Thailand Department of Disease Control has a good website showing real-time updates and stats on the number of confirmed cases, recoveries, and deaths.
How is Thailand dealing with the 2019 Novel Coronavirus?
Thailand has been implementing new measures in order to stop COVID-19.
**Since new regulations are released on the daily basis. The information below might already be outdated. Please refer to the Thaiger for up-to-date news and regulations. **
Declaration of State of Emergency
On March 24, Thailand’s Prime Minister declared a state of emergency in Thailand, to be in effect for one month starting March 26.
There could be curfews preventing people from going outside at specific times, closing of certain transportation routes, and banning of social gathering.
More information is going to be released on a daily basis by the Prime Minister at 2 p.m.
Shut Downs in Risky Provinces
Thailand has partially shut down Bangkok since March 22 by closing down gathering places, including:
- Department stores, except super markets, drug stores, and restaurants with food delivery services
- Movie theaters
- Street markets, except fresh markets
- Gyms and swimming pools
- Hair salons
Restaurants can still open normally, but only for take-out and delivery.
Bangkok Post has a good list of places that need to be closed during the shut down.
In addition to Bangkok, a similar policy has been put in place for other risky provinces, including Nakhon Ratchasima, Phuket, Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and more.
Residents in these provinces are also encouraged to self-quarantine and stay at home during this period, no matter if they have COVID-19 symptoms or not.
Shut Downs of Schools, Universities, and National Parks
Starting March 18, 2020, all schools, universities, and educational organisations in Thailand must be closed until further notice.
In the meantime, classes can be done online.
National parks are also closed starting from March 25, 2020.
Promotion of Social Distancing
The idea of social distancing has been promoted widely in Thailand. For example,
- People are encouraged to work from home instead of going to their offices
- Coffee shops have served coffee on wheels with a rope and pulley system
- Social distancing stickers have been placed on elevators
Postponement of Water Festival
The Water Festival, normally held in April to celebrate the Thai New Year, will be postponed in 2020 until the situation is better.
Additional Measures for In-Bound Passengers
**Thailand released new regulations on March 25 shutting down the borders on land, sea, and air. Only Thai citizens, expats with a work permit, diplomats, and other journeys exempted by the Prime Minister are allowed to enter the country.**
According to the Thailand Ministry of Public Health website, additional measures apply for all passengers flying to Thailand. Passengers must:
- Show a health certificate confirming that there is “No evidence of COVID-19 infection in the previous 72 hours and no signs of sickness in the 14 days prior to the departure date”
- Show that they have health insurance covering $100,000 USD for their stay in Thailand
- Fill out a new health form (T.8 form)
Additional measures are taken if you come from a country with an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak:
- You must install a new mobile application called “AOT Airport of Thailand” for health monitoring. You can download the application through a QR Code at Thailand airports.
- If you have one of the COVID-19 symptoms, you will be referred to a designated hospital.
- You are required to do self-monitoring for 14 days at your registered residence.
An up-to-date list of measures implemented during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak can be found on this page.
Cancellation of Visas-On-Arrival
Thailand has cancelled visas-on-arrival for the following 22 countries:
- The Republic of Bulgaria
- Kingdom of Bhutan
- People’s Republic of China
- Republic of Cyprus
- Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
- The Republic of Fuji
- Republic of India
- The Republic of Kazakhstan
- The Republic of Malta
- The United Mexican States
- The Republic of Nauru
- Papua New Guinea
- The Russian Federation
- Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
- The Republic of Uzbekistan
- The Republic of Vanuatu
- The Italian Republic
- Republic of Korea
- Hong Kong
Cancellation of International Flights
Many airlines based in Thailand, including Thai AirAsia, have now completely cancelled all international flights until April 25, 2020.
Thai Airways has suspended all flights till May 31st, 2020.
Thai Lion Air has cancelled both International and local flights until April 30, 2020.
Planning to Help Overstayers
Thailand is now planning to help overstayers in Thailand who cannot fly back to their countries because of the virus outbreak.
This measure hasn’t been implemented yet but we should hear more about it soon.
There was also a report that it is much easier to do a visa extension in Thailand during this time.
Thermal Scanners, Hand Sanitizers, and Surgical Masks
Thermal scanners have been installed at various international airports, including Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.
Many hospitals, BTS stations, MRT stations, and condominiums have also started installing thermal cameras. If you are found to have a fever, you will be denied entry or sent to a nearby hospital.
If you rent an apartment, you are required to have a fever check upon entry.
Hand sanitizers are also provided widely at BTS and MRT stations, gas stations, and restaurants.
What happens when someone is infected with the virus in Thailand?
If someone is infected or suspected to be infected with COVID-19, they will be isolated and closely monitored by hospitals until they are fully recovered.
Or they will be sent to the state-owned specialized medical center for infectious disease, called Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute.
In addition, most hospitals in Thailand have a designated area with negative pressure rooms and policies for personal protective equipment, or PPE.
Is it safe to travel to Thailand?
The CDC has issued a level 3 warning (“Avoid Nonessential Travel”) for Thailand: “Thailand is experiencing widespread ongoing transmission of a respiratory illness caused by the novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19). CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Thailand.”
Can I still ship items to Thailand?
It’s still possible to ship items to Thailand. However, shipping times for items from abroad have increased dramatically as airlines have cut down flights (and thus there is less space for packages).
How to get updated with the current virus situation in Thailand?
The Thailand Ministry of Public Health is a great website to keep yourself up-to-date about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus situation.
They actively release a daily report in English giving you updated information on the virus, not only for Thailand, but the entire world.
COVID Foreign Community Support Group Chiang Mai actively post new news about COVID-19 situation in Thailand.
Richard Maude, a tropical medicine physician and epidemiologist, also regularly tweets interesting information about the coronavirus.
Let’s take a look at how you can protect yourself from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
How to protect yourself from the virus
The WHO released the following advice to protect yourself yourself from COVID-19:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your healthcare provider;
- When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
- The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
There are also additional outlines for those who are working in wet markets in China and Southeast Asia, including:
- Wear protective gowns, gloves, and facial protection while handling animals and animal products
- Remove protective clothing after work, wash daily and leave at the work site.
- Avoid exposing family members to soiled work clothing and shoes.
- Disinfect equipment and working area at least once a day.
Should I wear a mask?
There’s conflicting information on whether or not you should wear a mask to protect yourself from the COVID-19.
Surprisingly, according to the World Health Organisation, you may not need to wear a surgical mask in Thailand at all.
WHO Thailand tweeted the below infographic summarizing when you do you need or do not need to wear a mask.
In the same way, Forbes has a good article explaining about coronavirus and face protection.
BBC also has a similar article about “Can wearing masks stop the viruses?”. The article says that
“Routine surgical masks for the public are not an effective protection against viruses or bacteria carried in the air”, which was how “most viruses” were transmitted, because they were too loose, had no air filter and left the eyes exposed.
But they could help lower the risk of contracting a virus through the “splash” from a sneeze or a cough and provide some protection against hand-to-mouth transmissions.”
On the other hand, masks are more effective for preventing infected people from spreading the disease. The Hong Kong Government has a good explanation on when, how, and why you should wear a mask.
However, Thailand authorities still do encourage people to wear face masks during a virus outbreak, claiming that it is “better than nothing”.
Airports in Thailand are one of the first places to release new regulations requesting all passengers to wear face masks to protect themselves from COVID-19.
Starting March 25, the Department of Land Transport released a similar rule for all passengers who are boarding trains, including the BTS and MRT.
And now there’s a report that you need to wear a mask when visiting government organizations, including the immigration office in Chiang Mai.
Because of the surgical mask shortage, Thai authorities stated that unless you are a healthcare worker, a cloth face mask is sufficient.
In addition, there was a report of a study on Facebook that UV sterilizers for baby bottles may allow reuse of N95 and other masks. Any parents having access to one can use that to sterilize any masks they have.
Wearing a mask might offer added protection for healthy individuals, providing they wear it properly. For example, you shouldn’t touch the surface of the mask after wearing it.
This video here shows you how to wear a mask properly.
You may also need to wear a mask to protect yourself from air pollution.
What hand-sanitizer should I use?
You should regularly wash your hands. Rubbing your eyes with contaminated hands carries a risk since it is possible that the virus can get into the body through the eye mucosa.
In case you can’t wash your hands regularly with soap and water, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend you use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer containing at least 70% alcohol.
Although hand sanitizers in Thailand don’t clearly state the concentration in the label, it is required by Thailand Food and Drug Administration that all hand sanitizers sold in Thailand need to contain over 70% alcohol.
Therefore, it is safe to assume that you can buy any hand sanitizer as long as it is approved by the Thailand FDA.
What to do when you suspect you are infected with the coronavirus?
According to Thailand Department of Disease Control, here’s what you need to do:
“If you have one or more of the following symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and shortness of breath after traveling from affected areas within 14 days, you should notify physician, nurse, or health staff immediately.”
You can also contact the Department of Disease Control hotline at 1422.
More About Coronavirus
Let’s take a look at general information you should know about COVID-19.
What is a Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are actually the name of a large family of viruses. They can be commonly found in many animal species, including cats, cattle, camels, and bats.
There are only a few types of coronaviruses that cause disease in humans. Two well-known diseases caused by the virus are MERS and SARS.
The virus can cause illness, including fever and respiratory problems, when transmitted to human beings.
The coronavirus found in 2019 is a new type of virus. It’s called the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19 for short.
Where did COVID-19 come from?
The COVID-19 is speculated to be from a fish market in Wuhan, China.
Although it is commonly believed that COVID-19 came from a bat, we don’t know whether this is true or not.
Other reports also said that the virus came from snakes.
There still needs to be further investigation to determine the real cause of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
You should be careful when reading about the virus since there is a lot of misinformation spreading online.
Why the name “corona”?
The name coronavirus comes from its appearance, since the virus has a crown shape.
“Corona” derives from Latin, meaning “crown”.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The common symptoms of the Novel Coronavirus are fever, coughing, and shortness of breath.
However, please note that the symptoms of the virus can vary between each individual.
Some infected patients may not show any symptoms at all, while others can have fevers and breathing difficulties.
You can find out more about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus on the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention website.
How deadly is it?
The Novel Coronavirus has caused over fifteen thousands deaths worldwide.
Previously, the fatality rate was speculated to be only 2%. However, it is now being reassessed because of the increasing number of deaths.
You can check the up-to-date number of confirmed cases, deaths, and fatality rate at worldometers.info.
How does it spread?
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus mostly spreads through respiratory droplets produced when coughing or sneezing.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated that:
“The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”
It is also possible that COVID-19 can be spread by asymptomatic people, or from contact with contaminated objects, as stated by the CDC:
“People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
How many people have been infected so far?
Although the Novel Coronavirus is less deadly than SARS, it seems to spread more easily, with four hundred thousand cases so far. The number has been increasing rapidly in March.
Worldometers gives an up-to-date number of confirmed cases.
Which countries have been infected by the virus so far?
While the majority of the confirmed cases initially came from Wuhan, China, COVID-19 has been spreading quickly in many countries all over the world, including Italy, South Korea, France, Germany, United States, Singapore, and Thailand.
You can check a real-time tracking map of the Novel Coronavirus from Johns Hopkins University’s Center.
Frequently Asked Questions
The WHO has tweeted a set of useful questions & answers related to the spread of COVID-19 including:
- Does the new coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?
- Is it safe to receive a package from China?
- Can pets at home spread the new virus?
- Do vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the new coronavirus?
- Can eating garlic help prevent infection with the new coronavirus?
Here are some useful links regarding the 2019 Novel Coronavirus situation:
General information about the virus
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Thailand Ministry of Public Health
- Google’s Covid-19 Portal
Maps and Data
- Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering
- Worldometers (provides up to date numbers worldwide)
- Flight cancellation
- New York Times Travel Bans List (provides an overview of current travel bans worldwide)
- Daily virus update
- CoronaVirusFlu Twitter
- Dr. Alexey Kulikob Twitter
- Dr. John Cambell YouTube
- New Medical Video YouTube
A number of websites list up to date information about the situation in Thailand and the services they currently provide for their citizens as well as which actions they advise them to take:
- Nowcasting and forecasting the potential domestic and international spread of the COVID-19 outbreak originating in Wuhan, China: a modelling study
- Transmission of COVID-19 Infection from an Asymptomatic Contact in Germany
- Novel coronavirus COVID-19: early estimation of epidemiological parameters and epidemic predictions
- Uncanny similarity of unique inserts in the COVID-19 spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag
- The novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) uses the SARS-coronavirus receptor ACE2 and the cellular protease TMPRSS2 for entry into target cells
- The digestive system is a potential route of COVID-19 infection: a bioinformatics analysis based on single-cell transcriptomes
You can also read more research at rxivist.org.
Now, on to You
In case you have anything to share, including how to protect yourself during the virus outbreak, or additional sources we should add, please feel free to let us know in the comments.