Thailand scrambles to contain outbreak, secure vaccines

For much of 2020, Thailand had the coronavirus under control. After a strict nationwide lockdown in April and May, the number of new local infections dropped to zero, where they remained for the next six months.

Thailand closed its borders, enforcing mandatory quarantines for its own citizens and the handful of foreigners allowed to visit. But aside from a few outward signs of the “new normal,” like the ubiquitous wearing of masks and reminders to practice social distancing, life resumed as though the pandemic had largely run its course.

A new outbreak discovered in mid-December threatens to put the country back where it was in the toughest days of early 2020, when it tallied 3,045 cases and 59 deaths. Thailand’s COVID-19 coordinating center has warned that the number of new daily cases could rise to more than 10,000 by later this month under a worst-case scenario if the government does not do more to curtail the virus’s spread.

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