Thailand’s Response to COVID-19 and Disaster Risk Reduction
The first confirmed COVID-19 case was reported on January 13, 2020. Daily new COVID-19 cases had been in rising then on. The situation was brought under control in July-November, yet lately in 2020, daily new cases have increased significant. A state of emergency was declared on March 26, 2020 and has been extended to February 2021. International flights transporting Covid-19 passengers are banned from transiting through Thailand and the government has stepped up border surveillance to stop the import of COVID-19 cases from neighboring countries. The Government has approved a fiscal package of THB 1.5 trillion (around 9.6 percent of GDP) for health emergency related spending.
The Thai response so far has combined strong public health interventions, community engagement, and effective governance, which in turn has limited local transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 in the country. The country’s response was built on 40 years of investment in, and political commitment to, strong primary health services, universal health coverage and public health preparedness for pandemics. The key interventions for COVID-19 response and recovery involved functions under multiple laws, namely the Communicable Diseases Act, the State Administration Act, and the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoH) led the national response efforts in collaboration with a number of Ministries and Department including the he Ministry of Interior’s Department of Provincial Administration, and Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation. The MoH in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other stakeholders conducted a joint review focusing on the 9 pillars of the national COVID-19 pandemic response including 1) Country-level Coordination, Planning and Monitoring, 2) Risk Communication and Community Engagement, 3) Surveillance, Rapid Response Teams,
Case Investigation, 4) Points of Entry and Migrant Health, 5) National Laboratory Systems,
6) Infection Prevention and Control in the Community and Healthcare Facilities, 7) Clinical Management, 8) Operational Support and Logistics in Supply Chain and Workforce Management, and 9) Maintaining Essential Services during the COVID-19 Outbreak.
Thailand was praised by the review team for its effective and successful prevention and control of COVID-19 in many of the key pillars, including timely detection of the situation and reporting of confirmed cases, an integrated whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach including engagement of the private sector, surveillance of travelers in quarantine facilities, public health infrastructure, village health volunteers and more than 1,000 disease investigation teams, efficient communication, a variety of two-way communication channels with the public to encourage and measure compliance and delivery of targeted messages, as well as providing surge capacity in health care facilities, i.e. preparation of facilities, beds, wards, equipment and supplies.
Although the intra-action review has highlighted many of Thailand’s successes, there remain gaps that need to be addressed in order to better prepare for a possible future outbreak. An advanced integrated digital data system will be required to ensure efficiency in managing the situation. The MoPH need to strengthen the Emergency Operations Centres (EOC) with established and tested SOPs. Hands on training in the Incident Command System (ICS) to improve operational efficiency between EOCs at national and sub-national levels in close collaboration with the DDPM has been identified as one of the priority area.