It has now been six weeks since Thailand announced a locally transmitted coronavirus infection. All reported cases of covid-19 during that time have come from quarantined arrivals who have recently entered the country.
The official figures show that Thailand has recorded 3,216 covid-19 cases and 58 fatalities since the outbreak began.
However, some experts have started questioning why the figures have remained so low compared to other nations.
Earlier reports show that Thailand has one of the lowest coronavirus testing rates in the world.
To date, 600,000 samples have been tested for covid-19 from a population of 69 million people. This equates to a testing rate of just 0.87 percent.
As a comparison, the United Kingdom, which has a similar population to Thailand, has performed 18 times more tests.
Thai officials have prioritized high-risk groups, including those who have recently returned to the country and people displaying influenza and pneumonia symptoms.
Health officials have noted that the number of people with influenza and pneumonia symptoms has sharply decreased, citing it as evidence that the outbreak is under control in Thailand.
Regardless, Thailand wants to ramp up the number of tests it can administer, notably as schools, public transport, and entertainment venues have reopened to the public.
Siam Bioscience Co, a domestic producer of covid-19 test kits, say they will ramp up production as Thailand braces for the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus cases.
Managing Director of Siam Bioscience Co, Songpon Deechongkit, explained that Thailand’s low testing rates are a supply and demand issue, saying:
“Thailand has always received criticism for testing too few, and that was the case at the outset because there weren’t enough test kits.”
His company aims to produce up to 100,000 kits every month to help Thailand become “less reliant on imports.”
The kits cost one-third of the price of imported versions. They could help Thailand increase its testing capabilities over the coming weeks.
Other nations, including the United States and Hong Kong, have witnessed increases in covid-19 cases after reopening restaurants and bars.
In particular, Hong Kong reported a spike in cases of unknown origin, with some of the cases asymptomatic. This may suggest hidden chains of transmission across the city as businesses opened again.
Mr. Deechongkit said that transport hubs, illegal border crossers, and quarantine facilities are the places with a higher risk of transmission. He emphasized that people should maintain caution, saying:
“Testing should now be about active surveillance. We have to be vigilant and proactive. As long as there is movement of people coming into Thailand, there will always be a risk.”
Source: Bangkok Post