When a Chinese tourist was diagnosed with the Covid-19 coronavirus on January 13, the first known infection outside of China before the disease made its fatal global sweep, Thailand would have seemed a likely locale for mass contagion and mortality.
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists descended on the kingdom over the Lunar New Year holiday, a time when the deadly virus and its contagiousness were barely understood. Prioritizing tourism over health, Thailand’s government left its borders open to China and the wider world.
But when a respected physician at the royally affiliated Siriraj Hospital projected on March 26 that Thailand would have 350,000 cases and 7,000 deaths by mid-April without social distancing, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha invoked emergency rule, centralized crisis management and phased in hard lockdown measures, many of which remain in place.
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