There has been much controversy surrounding the official coronavirus statistics released by the Thai Government’s Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration recently.
Over the past week, the official figures have rapidly declined, going from daily cases numbering in the hundreds, to averaging around 30 new cases per day.
This has opened up debate across social media and news platforms as to whether the Thai public can rely on the government data as an accurate picture of the coronavirus situation in the country.
One way of gaining a deeper understanding of the accuracy of the official data is by looking at the number of tests that have been conducted in Thailand per 1,000 capita.
According to the latest figures, updated on April 15th, there have been 0.53 tests for covid-19 per 1,000 people in Thailand. This equates to just 0.05 percent of the Thai population.
A recent study conducted in the United States concluded that between 50 and 85 times more people are infected with the coronavirus than the official data suggests due to a lack of testing.
It is not impossible to imagine that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of coronavirus cases going undetected in Thailand.
There are a number of reasons for this. One reason is that people who have caught covid-19 may be asymptomatic, showing little or no symptoms of the virus and therefore not considering the need for a test.
Another reason is financial. While the Thai Government is trying to offer free covid-19 testing to some groups of people, the price is high for others. There have been reports of hospital bills exceeding 100,000 baht for coronavirus positive patients.
Some Thai officials have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the levels of testing for the infection, saying the testing capacity in Thailand is far too low for the population.
While similar issues plague other nations around the world as they try to gain accurate data on the number of coronavirus cases, Thailand seriously lags behind.
According to the latest data, Thailand sits near the foot of the table when looking at the number of covid-19 tests conducted per 1,000 capita with countries such as Senegal, India, and Indonesia the only ones who conduct fewer tests.
There are major testing issues in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, however, they both manage to outperform Thailand with 10.26 and 5.07 tests per 1,000 people respectively.
Even other nations in the region are outperforming Thailand in terms of testing. Vietnam is conducting 2.1 tests per 1,000 people, Malaysia 2.94, and Singapore 10.06.
The solution for Thailand is to provide nondiscriminatory, free, accessible coronavirus testing for everyone – both Thai and foreigners. In addition, hospitals must waive treatment fees for all covid-19 patients.
Eliminating the fear of financial ruin and making tests simple and accessible will allow for more accurate data regarding the spread of coronavirus in Thailand and assist with reducing the restrictions in place across the country in a timely and safe manner.
Source: Our World In Data