While being on the right track, the government’s latest response to the new coronavirus (Covid-19) by closing schools and entertainment venues, as well as putting off the Songkran break, is likely to prove too little, too late, once again. As other countries have shown, the sooner firm and hard measures are put in place, the better and likelier efforts to contain and remedy Covid-19 will be successful. An early global lesson from the fast-spreading virus is to be pre-emptive and pro-active, “front-loading” the pain of social adjustments and economic damages rather than playing catch-up and ultimately paying a higher price.
Back when Covid-19 began its global assault, Thailand was the first country outside China to report a case. It was on Jan 13, when a woman arrived in Bangkok from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and ground zero of what is now a global pandemic. Over the next several weeks, Chinese authorities placed Wuhan and much of Hubei province under strict quarantine, with restrictions on travel and movement all over the country. While the rest of the world was still nonchalant, China’s “shock therapy” seemed overly drastic at the time, as economic conditions from the local bourse to growth forecasts headed south. But by early March, China’s number of infections and death toll stabilised and had been brought under control while many countries around the world are now going into a tailspin over Covid-19.