Thailand Shares Best Practices and Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic
Health workers and Thailand's universal healthcare system. Photo: Public Services International (CC BY-NC 2.0)
The Global COVID-19 Index recognized Thailand as the top country in making the most progress toward curbing the spread of the pandemic. In a report published by Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health,Thailand shares its experience in addressing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak and provides policy lessons to help other countries overcome this disease.
Innovative Public Health Strategies
Several national strategies implemented to control the disease are discussed, such as surveillance conducted at points of entry and active case finding by village volunteers, risk communication preparedness, and use of ICT in contact tracing. Risk communication done in various channels, including daily briefings by the Ministry of Public Health to boost public confidence and trust in the capacity of the Thai health system, and awareness raising through social media on the dangers of COVID-19, encouraged the public to follow preventive and control measures against COVID-19.
Thailand also utilized ICT through the “the DDC Care” application launched by the country’s Department of Disease Control (DDC) to monitor and track patients under investigation, and the “Thai Chana” web application developed by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society. Thai Chana generated population movement data for the benefit of contact tracing among risk groups, and aided the disease surveillance and investigation process.
By May 2020, Thailand was able to flatten the COVID-19 curve with limited local transmission. The report cited measures that helped: (i) implementing mandatory and voluntary measures to contain the outbreak, including remote working measures and social campaigns to “stay home, stop the virus, save the nation”; (ii) providing treatment free of charge to all COVID-19 patients, including non-Thai citizens, to control the spread of the virus; and (iii) enforcing travel restrictions both nationally and internationally in the first week of April 2020.
Five Key Lessons from Thailand’s COVID-19 Response
The report summarizes five key lessons Thailand has learned from its COVID-19 response:
- Invest in health facilities.Thailand’s investment in basic healthcare infrastructure in the last four decades has prepared the country well for the pandemic. The country has more than 1,000 public hospitals providing secondary and tertiary care services and more than 10,000 primary health care facilities providing primary healthcare services across the country. These facilities have been repurposed to accommodate COVID-19 patients and maintain other essential services.
- Universal health coverage (UHC). Since 2002, Thailand has achieved universal health coverage. During the COVID-19 outbreak, the Thai government provided essential healthcare to all infected people, including foreigners. All COVID-19 patients were able to access essential treatment without financial barriers.
- The help of more than one million village health volunteers who complemented primary healthcare services at the community level. The volunteers undertook door-to-door visits for health education, active case finding, disease surveillance, quarantine, and even made cloth masks for the people.
- Early action. Three days after China announced, Thailand initiated screening of passengers from Wuhan, People’s Republic of China (PRC) within three days after PRC’s announcement of cases of pneumonia. Detection of the first COVID-19 case outside the PRC prompted strong public health measures and campaigns. The country also undertook a whole-of-government approach led by top political leaders, establishing the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), chaired by the Prime Minister.
- Nationwide public cooperation on effective social measures. Daily press conferences by the CCSA’s spokesperson and risk communication by the Ministry of Public Health executives and experts provide essential information to the public and repeatedly motivates healthy behaviours. Thailand closely monitors the people’s COVID-19 related behaviors and decides accordingly.
Download the full report.
Last Updated: 2 September 2020