New cases of COVID-19 in low single digits . . .
Thailand has successfully controlled the spread of the novel coronavirus, keeping the total number of cases at 3,042 and deaths at 57. According to the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), Thailand confirmed only two new cases and one additional death on May 25, and has started easing restrictions in a staggered approach. The government first lifted some restrictions on May 3, permitting six types of businesses to re-open, including outdoor markets, barber shops, and pet groomers. Shopping malls and department stores were allowed to reopen starting May 17 after a two-month closure. Other businesses such as bars, cinemas, and sports facilities remain closed.
Thailand enters global race for vaccine . . .
Thailand has also joined the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Researchers at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University started conducting tests on macaque monkeys last week in hopes of discovering a cost-effective COVID-19 vaccine. Thailand plans to have a vaccine ready for deployment in 2021 after researchers successfully conduct trials on mice. Now the government plans to recruit 5,000 people for a human trial once the test on the monkeys is successfully completed.
But challenges ahead . . .
Although it has been effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19, Thailand expects its economy to shrink by up to six per cent this year, mainly due to its effect on the tourism sector. Thailand is heavily reliant on tourism, which contributes 20 per cent of its GDP. According to the Thai government, the country recorded a 75 per cent plunge in foreign tourist arrivals in March. In response, the government has announced plans to encourage domestic tourism and provide financial support to local businesses. In addition, the government approved a C$82B package in early April, allocating C$26B for health care and financial aid to affected citizens. Cash handouts to laid-off workers and farmers have been provided as well.