Southeast Asia Had COVID-19 Under Control. What Went Wrong?

Mutant viruses, rich Chinese tourists, and a military government no one trusts are among the reasons cases are surging.

As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc around the world, life in Southeast Asia stayed normal. Worshippers thronged Buddhist temples, taxis and tuk-tuks jostled at traffic lights, and revelers crooned in late-night karaoke bars.

In February, however, disaster struck. Massive outbreaks have forced Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos into ongoing lockdowns.

Given the huge numbers of business and leisure travelers to Southeast Asia, it’s remarkable that the region managed to avoid a mass COVID-19 outbreak for as long as it did. It’s uncertain exactly how. People speculate it was due to swift border closures in early 2020, the hot, humid climate, and the fact that everyone masked up.

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