Somchai Jitsuchon, research director at TDRI, an independent think-tank, is pondering the resumption of city life when the nationwide curfew and lockdown ends on April 30. He said many people are sceptical that cities will return to full functioning after the month of lockdown, as it may take longer to get the Covid-19 pandemic under control.
Lockdown is a tool to enforce social distancing, but there are other measures being applied that are not mandatory, Somchai explained. These are divided into three groups: First, educating people about preventing contagion by washing hands frequently, wearing face masks, and staying 2 metres apart. Second, corporates and organisations screening for body temperature and mask-wearing on entry to their buildings or offices. And third, government testing asymptomatic people and arranging quarantine at home or elsewhere for risk groups.
Meanwhile South Korea, Taiwan and Japan have not imposed drastic lockdowns, yet have succeeded in slowing the rate of new Covid-19 infections. South Korea cut the rate to only 1 per cent after its total cases reached 10,000 in early April. This better than the United States or countries in Europe, despite South Korea not imposing the severe lockdowns seen in Italy. New cases in Italy rose15-20 per cent after reaching the 10,000 level, although that rate finally slowed to 3-4 per cent when cases totalled 100,000. Taiwan had 376 cases as of April 7, or only 16 infections per 1 million population – half Thailand’s infection rate of 32 per million. Although it discovered its first case only one week later than Thailand, Taiwan’s infection rate has been much slower since total cases reached 100.
In public institutions, the government must impose preventive measures such as barring entry to Covid cases, wearing face masks, social distancing seating arrangements, and frequent hand-washing.