Thailand is one of the countries with the most successful response to COVID-19. According to a Thai health expert, this can be attributed to three factors: early intervention, health system resilience, and effective governance.
Speaking at the Annual Public Policy Conference (APPC) organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), Viroj Tangcharoensathien, senior adviser to the International Health Policy Program of Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health, highlighted their best practices that helped the country mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.
Thailand has implemented measures similar to other countries, such as the use of face mask, closure of public places, introduction of online learning, restriction of travel, and implementation of physical distancing, stay-at-home, and work-from-home policies.
However, according to Tangcharoensathien, it was “the civil service, together with multisectoral coordination, that made the difference”. He noted that by May 25, there had been no recorded local transmissions in the country. New cases came from international travelers who were both Thai and non-Thai citizens.
“This is the result of containment since the early onset of the pandemic when we have [brought down] the first wave,” Tangcharoensathien explained, saying that this has minimized COVID-19’s impact on their health system and prevented the overwhelming of health services.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the government started setting up the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration—a whole-of-government-approach with multisectoral coordination and a single command system. It also established its emergency operating center at its headquarters and 77 other provincial offices.
In terms of health system resilience, the government scaled up its capacity to test, trace, and isolate positive cases through the rapid expansion of its testing laboratories nationwide; mobilization of 1,000 surveillance and rapid response teams, local health staff, and more than a million village health volunteers; and the implementation of effective quarantine protocols that are fully subsidized by the government regardless of nationality (for local and state quarantines).
Moreover, with full support from both the government and the private sector, there had been zero mortality among their health workers as of September 2020.
For governance, the senior adviser emphasized the importance of “effective risk communication and community engagement”. With the collaboration of Thailand’s Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, all departments, and the academe, daily updates on the current situation and trends were provided to its citizens.
The government's effort to communicate to the public has resulted in the latter’s trust, confidence, and adherence to government interventions, Tangcharoensathien said.
Moreover, the government initiated weekly online surveys to monitor public adherence to its social measures. It also started an online media literacy assessment to measure its citizens' capacity to distinguish fake news related to COVID-19. The results of these surveys were used to guide the government in crafting more social measures and designing risk communication strategies.
Tangcharoensathien concluded his presentation by emphasizing that governance is critical in ensuring effective COVID-19 response, but this should be complemented with multisectoral response from the private sector, civil society, and the community.
The APPC is the main and culminating activity of the Development Policy Research Month (DPRM) celebration led by PIDS every September. This year’s DPRM theme is “Bouncing Back Together: Innovating Governance for the New Normal”. ###
Watch the video of this seminar at https://www.facebook.com/PIDS.PH/videos/1197568463976227. For more videos of PIDS events, go to https://www.pids.gov.ph/videos.