The Impact of Preparedness in Defying COVID-19 Pandemic Expectations in the Lower Mekong Region: A Case Study.
Corwin A., Plipat T., Phetsouvanh R., Mayxay M., Xangsayarath P., Quynh Mai LT., Oum S., Kuddus MA.
Dire COVID-19 expectations in the Lower Mekong Region (LMR) can be understood as Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam have stared down a succession of emerging infectious disease (EID) threats from neighboring China. Predictions that the LMR would be overwhelmed by a coming COVID-19 tsunami were felt well before the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic had been declared. And yet, the LMR, excepting Myanmar, has proved surprisingly resilient in keeping COVID-19 contained to mostly sporadic cases. Cumulative case rates (per one million population) for the LMR, including or excluding Myanmar, from January 1 to October 31 2020, are 1,184 and 237, respectively. More telling are the cumulative rates of COVID-19-attributable deaths for the same period of time, 28 per million with and six without Myanmar. Graphics demonstrate a flattening of pandemic curves in the LMR, minus Myanmar, after managing temporally and spatially isolated spikes in case counts, with negligible follow-on community spread. The comparable success of the LMR in averting pandemic disaster can likely be attributed to years of preparedness investments, triggered by avian influenza A (H5N1). Capacity building initiatives applied to COVID-19 containment included virological (influenza-driven) surveillance, laboratory diagnostics, field epidemiology training, and vaccine preparation. The notable achievement of the LMR in averting COVID-19 disaster through to October 31, 2020 can likely be credited to these preparedness measures.