Why South Asia's COVID-19 numbers are so low


States is approaching five million covert 19 infections. We've passed 160,000 deaths. This virus has paralyzed the richest, most powerful country in the world. And we know this was preventable because at the same time and parts of the developing world countries with far fewer resource is have kept infection and death rates remarkably low. Rhonda's carried out nearly 180,000 tests. Since the start of the pandemic, Erica has applied a combination of mandatory social distancing. A strict lock down and wide scale testing. It's a strategy. We can learn a lot from these apparent success stories this week. We're taking a closer look at Southeast Asia along the Mekong River. As of this recording, five countries with a combined population of 243 million people have had fewer than 5000 cases of covert 19 and 72 deaths. The water Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar doing that the rest of the world finds itself unable to do in controlling this virus. Well, I think if we knew that answer for certain there would be epidemiologists and government officials from all over the world lined up on the door, trying to figure out the secret. That's Hannah Beach. She's Southeast Asia bureau chief for The New York Times. Race wars reached her at her home in Bangkok. And she says, there isn't just one reason that these countries have been so successful. I don't think there's anyone magic bullet, but there is kind of constellation of things that countries Thailand has done, which would seem right. First of all people started wearing masks very early, even when the W H O is dissuading people from doing so. Second of all, it's not really a touchy culture when people greet each other. They do what's called a Y, which is when you put your hands together like you're like you're in a prayer like motion. Sort of all hospitals are good health care's not prohibitive. You know, one of the things that people have been looking at that that it might be some sort of Innate resistance that has been built up, particularly in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam to the current virus. One of the theories that the people in Thailand are looking at is the way in which the novel Coronavirus Cove in 19 evolved. And it started off most likely in bats on DH. Then it went from bad to some sort of intermediary mammal, and then from that mammal to humans, there is there is some speculation, looking both that kind of the genetic origins of the current virus, but also looking at something animals that were at the wet market. In Wuhan, where the outbreak seems to have proliferated that the animal that was thie kind of intermediary animal between bats and humans might have been an animal that was indigenous to this part of Southeast Asia. And that it might have been a pangolin which looks like a kind of like an artichoke cross. Listen, armadillo. If it came from this animal, there is the possibility that something a precursor even this novel, coronavirus had been sort of floating around. In the ecosystem in this region for a long time, and that could potentially explain some sort of resistance that had been built up within the local populations here. And if you look at, for instance, in in southwestern China, which is very close to this region in the number of cases of Corona virus were very, very low. Compared to a place like Wuhan. So again, you know is this is this magic bullet That explains everything We don't know. But it's certainly a factor. That is that seemed interesting. That is interesting. Will you live in the region? You cover the region as you watch these numbers and as you watch the toll in the rest of the world Are you at all suspicious? Do you think these numbers of credible all of these places whether it's Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar If the numbers were so cooked if there were bodies lined up at the morgues. If there were mass graves, we would know there is social media. People talk, people whisper, and we would we would have an idea. S O. I think that's I don't think it's fair to say that the numbers are simply made up. I'm in Thailand right now has fewer than I think 3500 cases. Vietnam, which has had an uptick has fewer than 800 cases. This. Maybe it's off by a couple 100. Maybe if given off by a couple 1000 But if there were bodies at the hospital's piling up from a mysterious respiratory disease, we would know you've spent the duration of the pandemic in Thailand. Let's go back to those first weeks. In January, Thailand confirmed what was believed to be the first confirmed case outside of China. Around the same time the U. S experienced its first case is well. What happened in those earliest weeks? Well, it was interesting that this this first case Thailand has a very good kind of geological service, and in mid January, they confirmed that the Chinese tourists coming from Wuhan, China, which is where the outbreaks believed to have started Had had flown to Bangkok for holiday, which millions of Chinese do every year Bank office in fact, one of the world's most visited cities, and it's one the most visited by Chinese. And at that point, people in Thailand became nervous because there was a mysterious disease up north in China, and there were a lot of Chinese tourists arriving and one thing that didn't happen and we can kind of look back at this. And obviously it's hard to say we know we knew that this is going to be The deadly epidemic that it's become. But in the beginning flights weren't stopped two flights captain arriving from from Wuhan from China, and yes, there were efforts to try to much temperatures of people came in, but there wasn't really that much that was done. Fast forward a few weeks people of their own accord with with government advice started wearing masks and you know there's there's no no sense in Thailand that That wearing a mask is anything but good for public health. There was no there was no no sense that that was somehow infringing upon their individual liberties you've experienced since you there with the ties. Six weeks of pretty strict national locked down. Is it getting any easier now? What's day to day? Life like in Thailand? Now, can you send your kids to school? Can you eat a restaurant? Can you go into stores? You know, I talked to friends back in the states and I feel a little bit guilty because we started our lock down in March and then in Early April. Essentially all international flights stopped. Commercial flights stopped. And so we've been sort of under lock down for months. But beginning in June, the lock down started easing. So all the restaurants all the bars, all the massage parlors, all the all the kind of normal establishments, businesses have slowly been opening up. And now my life is pretty normal. Yes, I still wear a mask everywhere. My kids wear masks everywhere. But schools high schools are back in session on their social distancing. Now they have school kids have school every other week. They wear the masks. They have plastic dividers and things. But there's commerce on DH. There's there's kinda semblance of normalcy, which again makes me feel a little bit that when I speak to people in the U. S, because that's very different from From what? What Americans experiences. You know, we've gone more than almost three months without a case of of local transmission, which is remarkable their cases. Every day, but they're all in people who are coming back from ties were coming back from overseas, whether it's the United States or Europe or the Middle East since that strictest version of the lock down ended Did the economy bounced back is AH are some of the worst effects economically of the lock down starting to ease Because people are spending money again, People are making money again. That's the real tragedy of of Thailand. Thailand did a very good job of controlling the virus and making sure that it hasn't spread. But economists absolutely devastated and the reason is devastated. It's because it's a very tourism reliant economy anywhere. Between 20 and 30% of GDP comes from from tourism, and they're no tourists coming in. So you can. If you want to come on a beach holiday to Thailand, you can't do that right now. So that means that anybody who was a tour guide, our hotel operator restaurant operator. Millions of people have been put out of work. And so the Thai government's really kind of facing a difficult decision right now, which is you can open up. But then if you open up and try to save the economy, you might be also allowing the virus to come in and assistant. It's an issue that Many economies and in many countries are dealing with. But given the success the Thailand has had and being able to control the virus, you know, it makes it that much more. On fraud to even consider bringing people back in and

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