Summary

The CDC warned US citizens against traveling to Thailand on Monday, citing a spike in COVID-19 cases there. The announcement caps a dramatic reversal from the earliest days of the pandemic, when the country was praised for containing the spread of the virus while outbreaks raged in Europe and the Americas.

The speed with which Thailand’s epidemiological outlook deteriorated is stark. On April 1, just 26 new cases were being reported, with an early 2021 wave of infections that peaked at around 1,000 cases per day seemingly extinguished. Fast-forward to August 10 and the Thai Public Health Ministry was reporting 19,843 cases and 235 new deaths over a 24-hour period.

The surge can be traced back to two developments. One is the rise of more contagious variants such as Delta and Alpha, which are supercharging outbreaks throughout Southeast Asia. Another is a chain of serious missteps in Thailand’s vaccine rollout.