Bangkok residents and living with ‘social distancing’

People practice social distancing as they sit on chairs spread apart in a waiting area for take-away food orders at a shopping mall in hopes of preventing the spread of the coronavirus in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

As much as they want to comply with the “stay at home” directive from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, many people that Thai PBS World talked to admitted that their routine has not changed in any way.

Pattita Nonthabutr, an accountant at an international logistics and freight forwarding company,  said she still has to come to her office at Suvarnabhumi Airport everyday and the prospect of a lockdown has even increased her workload.

She said the number of air freights has shot up as most customers are anticipating a lockdown in Thailand.  “So they have stepped up their product delivery,” she said.

She commutes from home in Laksi district to her office in Samut Prakarn province by using public transportation. Social distancing is certainly something difficult if one has to travel in passenger vans like Pattita does. The best she can do is to make sure that she always has her surgical mask on.

 

Though the government has encouraged both government agencies and private organizations to adopt “work from home” practice to minimize travel by personnel and employees, it appears that the appeal has not yet struck a responsive chord.

Kanjana Klin-Ubol, a civil servant at the Department of City Planning said she still has to report to work as there has been no order from the top management of the Ministry of Interior for its personnel to work from home. Closing of the shopping malls also is not affecting her very much as she doesn’t do much shopping in the first place

Her only frustration, however, is the difficulty of getting face masks.

 

Supakorn Phothong, a sale person for a fuel hose supplier, said her company has yet to adopt the work from home policy.  However, the company has been providing its staff with sanitary stuffs, including hand gel and face masks. It also arranges for temperature check for employees.

Supakorn, who has already been working remotely, said she sympathized with people being affected by business shutdowns as a result of the pandemic.

“I also feel concerned that people who are travelling back to their hometowns might spread the virus to their loved ones,” she said.

 

Last week, the Ministry of Education issued an order to close all schools and universities across the country, however some university staff still have to work on site, including Woravuth Onnaum, a lecturer at the Communication Arts Faculty of Rangsit University.

Yesterday, he was supposed to start working from home, but he had to go to the office to collect his belongings “because we do not know how long this is going to last”, he said.

Woravuth has used the online teaching platform for his classes. The distance learning system, however, has its limitations. “It is only suitable for teaching theory, not for practical classes. For example, the film production course requires a group of students to help each other to produce a short movie. They normally gain hands-on experience using the equipment and techniques, as well as learning how to work as a team. Now we can’t allow students to work in group outdoors or indoors, because their safety is our first priority”, said the lecturer.

Nonetheless, all students registered for this course will receive an ‘IP’, or In Progress grade. When the authorities are in control of the virus situation, and it is safe enough to reconvene, they can resume learning and working on their projects, “But, if the situation is last longer than expected, what are we going to do?” he asked.

Reporting by Jeerapa Suvanvitit

 

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