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Is Thailand hiding COVID-19 cases?

Thailand has shown a spike in viral Pneumonia cases

Chris Martenson ran this chart on his podcast over the weekend, suggesting that Thailand may have just rebranded their COVID-19 cases. Chris has been very good on the coronavirus outbreak, but on this one, I’m not convinced.

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Thailand is a key piece in the puzzle about whether COVID-19 can have a sustained outbreak in a tropical country.

With thousands of Chinese students spending two weeks in Thailand in “quarantine” en-route to Australia it is also ripe for an outbreak.

What Thailand is doing is keeping track of any Viral Pneumonia cases that don’t have a known cause. It is unclear, but it looks as if these are patients who have tested negative for COVID-19. The intention seems to be the right one. It could easily be a case of Thailand actually going above and beyond.

Given the importance of this as an issue, I spent a few hours on the weekend digging through various statistical analyses of typical cases of pneumonia in Thailand and surrounding countries. From an older study:  

During 2005–2008, influenza pneumonia resulted in an estimated annual average 36,413 hospital admissions and 322 in-hospital pneumonia deaths in Thailand.

So, 2,500 unexplained over two months seems to have the right number of digits to be possible. There are definitional issues that make it hard to know which are truly comparable. But, it does seem to be in the typical range that could be expected for this time of year in a country of Thailand’s size.

 

Other things in Thailand’s favour:

  • Thailand rates well on John Hopkins assessment of reporting (see chart below)
  • After SARS, Thailand seems to have put in above average virus detection processes
  • The reports from Thailand seem to more transparent and detailed than many other countries that we have seen

See here for all charts.

So, I’m not ruling out an outbreak in Thailand and am watching it closely. But I don’t think this chart is the smoking gun.

Interested to see if others have more information? Hit me on twitter @DamienKlassen if you have different data.