When the Government announced new rules to further minimise social contact on the 18th March, it was largely applauded as measures to prevent further outbreaks. It means venues like bars, gyms, massage and cinemas were to close with immediate effect.
Just this week I was speaking with some expats and although some were rightly concerned, many said it was media propaganda saying ‘show me someone not a celebrity that is infected?’ and that Thailand traffic accidents cause more deaths each day. I was a little shocked to be honest, it seems just about any news subject these days is met with some kind of conspiracy theory.
Clearly the rate of infection in Thailand, by population comparison is next to zero (69million population versus 272 confirmed cases as of 18th March 2020), but it is the growth and uncertainty that is the basis for fear. The coronavirus infection rate could explode, and this is why you cannot compare it to the number of road traffic deaths each day.
Yet many expats and Western visitors to Pattaya, based on observations and conversations, seem to just dismiss the whole issue.
In a recent poll on my Facebook page I asked expats only ‘Are you worried about the coronavirus getting worse in Thailand?’. A very significant 56% said ‘No’.
Italy continues to struggle and has overtaken source country China’s death rate now. Italy has one of the world’s oldest populations with 60% over age 40, with over 23% being over the age of 60. It is this aging population that has been the factor for the high death rate from the virus. Why then are not more Expats concerned given the average expat age in Thailand is 55 years old?
Surely the average Expat age puts them most at risk?
In a Thaivisa survey in 2018 (1,429 respondents), it revealed 48% of Expats are over 60 years old and 71% over 50 years old. This would be a high risk group for infection with the coronavirus. And, as we are seeing, Thailand is not bullet proof to this virus after all and infections are growing on a daily basis.
If the virus infiltrates an expat market who are not social distancing, the impact could be tragic.
Across Bangkok and Pattaya, from my travels this week, around 80% of Thais are wearing mask by contrast I think you can reverse the statistic for foreigners – with only about 20% wearing masks.
Maybe it is a Western/Asian thing in general. A popular Pattaya expat traveling back to Thailand from London posted this on his social network whilst at Heathrow airport: “Can’t believe most Europeans not wearing any protection while Asians look ready for combat please wake up Europeans you will suffer if you don’t take this serious”
I do agree that the statistics are still low and death rates even smaller, but the uncertainty surrounding this virus as we move forward should be enough of a basis to try and snub it out. Even if we put health to one side, it is wrecking the local market. Tourism has basically come to a stand still and hotel workers are having unpaid leave enforced on them in many cases. The sooner Thailand gets this virus behind it the quicker we can all get back on our feet and back to normal.
Still think tourism is alive and well?
I had meetings in Sukhumvit Soi 11 in the week and vlogged on just how quiet it was – just take a look at the hotel I walked though, you cannot see a single tourist.