Thai government defends lack of tests; says focused testing more important than mass testing

Thailand’s government said on Wednesday that it has not conducted mass testing because it was not cost-efficient and defended its focus-testing programs which it said was sufficient in fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

There have been questions over the government’s testing program and whether Thailand’s low infection number was a consequence of its lack of testing.

Thailand’s government confirmed on Wednesday 111 new coronavirus infections bringing the total number of infections to 2,369 and making it the site of the fourth largest outbreak in ASEAN.

The World Health Organization, the United States’ CDC and South Korean officials have all said that the most effective way to flatten the coronavirus curve was to conduct mass testing.

Statistics and tests

Government statistics show that Thailand tests only 1,079 cases per 1 million citizens. The country has only conducted 71,860 tests since the outbreak began despite having the capacity to conduct 20,000 tests per day.

The ratio of tests is less than Malaysia’s 1,715 per 1 million. Malaysia is the site of ASEAN’s largest outbreak with 3,963 confirmed cases.

The ratio that Thailand tests are also well below countries that have successfully ‘flattened the curve.’ Taiwan tests 1,564 cases per 1 million, South Korea tests 9,099 cases per 1 million while Italy tests 11,429 cases per 1 million.

Expensive tests

The government defended its low testing numbers by saying that that mass testing was “very expensive.”

“Testing everyone is expensive, we can focus test at-risk groups and still find the cases,” said government spokesman Dr Thaweesin Visanuyothin.

Dr Thaweesin said that the outbreak situation in the country was not yet at a point where they needed to test 100,000 people per day which would be very expensive and not cost-efficient.

“It doesn’t matter if you test negative today, it may let you relax and you let your guard down tomorrow,” Dr Thaweesin said. The government has said that the most effective counter to the disease was not mass testing but maintaining self isolation and social distancing.

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