I’ve been thinking back on that week in mid March, when everything changed. Over the course of a week, the news of borders being shut down to contain the spread of Covid-19 hit like thunder off the Andaman Sea. It was stressful. On March 14th, only a few days before Thailand began to close itself to the world, I tweeted:
It’s about time now for expats to choose whether they’ll ride out the pandemic in Thailand or back in their home countries. An agonizing decision for many.
At the time, I was grappling with that very choice. The State Dept. soon instructed American citizens abroad to return immediately or prepare to “shelter in place” indefinitely. After talking with family back in Massachusetts, I opted to stay in Thailand, where I have a long-term visa and work permit.
Back then, many people thought the pandemic would hit Thailand harder than the United States. I had no idea what would happen. But I kept faith in Thailand’s public health system, and hoped for the best.
We hunkered down in a small seventh-floor apartment on Bangkok’s far western fringe. From there, I watched as Thailand went from being a high-risk country to a pandemic success story — a transformation that some saw as miraculous. Others still refuse to believe it’s true.
Now, after more than two months without a single known case of local transmission, it’s time to reflect on how the country suppressed Covid-19. Perhaps more importantly, now is also the time to start thinking about how the next chapter of Thailand’s pandemic story might play out. Tourism is at the center of it.