From Alpha to Omicron: A chronicle of Thailand’s five Covid wars
The Covid-19 crisis has hit Thailand five times – January 2020, December 2020, April 2021, July 2021 and January 2022 – each time severely impacting public health, the economy and tourism.
The virus first emerged in December 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, before arriving in Thailand in January 2020.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30 and a pandemic on March 11.
Pharma giants across the world – including Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Sinovac – quickly focused their efforts on combating the virus, resulting in a variety of Covid-19 vaccines and antiviral drugs. Merck & Co's Molnupiravir and Pfizer's Paxlovid Covid-19 antiviral pills are the latest pharmaceutical weapons to tackle the crisis.
Thailand's first case was a 61-year-old woman who flew from China to Suvarnabhumi Airport on January 12, 2020. The first domestic case, a 50-year-old man who ferried a Chinese passenger to hospital, was reported on January 31.
Soon after, Covid-19 clusters were emerging in venues nationwide. Among the most infamous were the outbreaks at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium and Thong Lor entertainment venues in March 2020, the Samut Sakhon Central Shrimp Market in December 2020 and Bangkok’s Khlong Toei communities in April 2021.
This week, Department of Medical Services chief Dr Somsak Ankasil announced that Thailand has officially entered its fifth wave of Covid-19, driven by the super-infectious Omicron variant.
The Department of Disease Control estimates the latest wave could see a record-breaking 30,000 new cases per day in a worst-case scenario.
"A surge in cases would trigger a switch to Home Isolation (HI) and Community Isolation (CI) as the first line of treatment. Only severe cases would be sent to hospitals," said Dr Somsak.
Thailand is among countries that have been hit by all five major variants of concern, namely Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron.
As of Thursday, the country’s total Covid-19 caseload stood at 2,245,250 – 2,185,502 of whom have recovered, while 37,968 are still in hospitals and 21,780 have died.
According to Worldometer, cases worldwide rose to 298.29 million on Thursday. Of these, 256.82 million have recovered, 35.99 million are active cases (91,988 severely ill) and 5.48 million have died (up by 7,214).
Thailand was ranked 25th in the global list of most cases, which is topped by the US with 58.81 million, followed by India with 35.11 million, Brazil with 22.35 million, the UK with 13.84 million and France with 10.92 million.