Volunteers helping poorer COVID-19 wave in Thailand

Volunteers helping poorer COVID-19 wave in Thailand

As the coronavirus causes businesses to shut down in Thailand, many have to live without food, especially those who live in camps; However, the country’s volunteers are a beacon of hope for those struggling to survive.

For two months, carpenter Tun Nai was unable to send money to his parents in Myanmar to help care for his 11-year-old son after Thai authorities closed his construction site due to coronavirus problems.

Not having a job meant no income for him or his wife, who was confined to one of the more than 600 labor camps scattered around Bangkok, living in a tiny room in a dilapidated building with planks and sheeting to cover missing windows.

In Thailand’s worst virus outbreak to date, lockdown measures have reduced to zero what poor Bangkok children had to get rid of. Volunteer groups work to ensure their survival.

For Tun Nai, 31, a bag of rice, canned fish and other staples delivered by community assistance volunteers in Bangkok means you don’t have to go hungry this week.

“It’s been three or four months without money and we don’t have enough food,” he said after collecting supplies. And there is no option to go back to Myanmar, it is worse there. “

The government closed the camps in late June after clusters of delta-type infections spread among workers living nearby, exacerbating the COVID-19 surge in Thailand. Many of them lost all of their income, and while employers were supposed to make sure everyone had enough food and water, many did not.

“You’d have a camp with lots of supplies, it was stock, and you walked 30 yards (yards) to the next and they didn’t see their boss for two weeks and were told to go fishing to get them.” Greg Lange, co-founder of the Bangkok-based Community Aid Organization, which provides about 3,000 hot meals a day and up to 600 “life sacks” such as those obtained by Tun Nai, said.

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Founded at the start of the pandemic last year, the organization has grown to more than 400 Thai and foreign volunteers like Lang, a 62-year-old Florida native who works in the restaurant business and has lived in Thailand for two decades and relies heavily on social media to spread the word and seek help.

Donations come from companies, individuals and even governments. Some donate meals they prepared themselves, others donate packaged meals or cash products. Rice was paid for in survival packages recently distributed in slums near Bangkok’s main commercial port facilities by Australian Aid; The apples were donated by the New Zealand-Thai Chamber of Commerce.

When hospitals became too overcrowded to admit COVID-19 patients, volunteer doctors and others brought oxygen to their homes, hoping to keep them alive long enough for an intensive care bed to be free.

“We were mainly concerned with helping people get through this period with food supplies and basic necessities, but all of a sudden we were taking care of spirits, and people were dying in our arms — literally,” the co-founder said. De Lange, Friso Bouldervaert, is a Dutchman who has lived in Thailand for more than a third of his 29 years.

“Fortunately, this situation is a little better now, more beds are free and the government’s home isolation program is working better, but we are still sending 20 to 30 people to the hospital a day, and we are still providing oxygen,” he added. . He said.

New infections in Thailand have reached about 15,000 in recent days after peaking above 23,400 in mid-August, while deaths from COVID-19 remained high, with 224 cases reported on Sunday. The country has confirmed 1.2 million cases and more than 12,800 deaths from the epidemic.

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The government hopes that the country is now on the cusp of emerging from this deadly wave of the epidemic, which has accounted for 97% of all cases in Thailand and more than 99% of deaths.

After the much-criticized slow start of vaccinations, about 35% of the population has now received at least one injection and about 12% are fully vaccinated. In Bangkok, more than 90% of them had a single stroke and more than 22% had a stroke.

“In terms of the number of cases, we see that it is still high but the trend is improving,” said Dr. Tuisap Siraprabasiri, an epidemiologist and senior advisor at the government’s disease control department.

Lockdown restrictions were eased last week and several construction projects were given the green light to resume work, under close monitoring.

Many construction workers have now received at least their first dose of the vaccine, Toisp said, and many construction sites have begun operating under what authorities have called “bubble-and-seal” regulations — a workers’ “bubble” held together and isolated from the outside. Contact to prevent COVID-19 from entering or spreading outside the site.

“We are also applying this concept to other workplaces such as factories,” he said.

When the camps were first closed, a group of Bangkok residents formed We Care For Ourselves, saying it was immediately clear to them that many workers were left behind in crisis situations.

They have created an online platform to match needs in the camps with available donations to better target aid, and share their information while helping the Bangkok community and other groups.

Even as things improved, group member Yuwadee Assavasrisilp said many undocumented workers remain unvaccinated, and as rumors spread about their group, they are beginning to learn more about the current needs of the city’s slums.

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She added that when people test positive, they are forced to self-isolate at home, which usually means the virus is spreading to family members. Many of them are so poor that they come out of seclusion to work just so they can feed their families.

“If it weren’t for the volunteers, we would have seen more people killed because they couldn’t get to the government system in time,” said Yuwadi, 32. The number of volunteers in Thailand has increased – a testament to the generosity of Thais during the crisis – but at the same time it reflects the government’s massive failure to deal with the epidemic. “

A recent outbreak at Camp Ton Nai, home to a crew of 112 to build a mansion for an oil businessman, kept it shuttered longer than most, but the site was approved to reopen within the past week. He and his wife contracted the virus, but without severe symptoms and a negative test about a week ago means he can now return to work.

“Everyone is looking forward to it,” he said, his smile wide enough to be visible through his surgical mask. We have been without income for a long time. “

For volunteer groups, this is just another phase of a long-running pandemic.

Bangkok Community Aid, in cooperation with the local government, last week opened a 52-bed isolation center in a primary school, which is unused due to the pandemic. Over the weekend, volunteers extensively tested an entire neighborhood to get better data on infection rates.

“We don’t stop,” Boldervart said. “We’re just adapting.”

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