Street hawkers risk COVID-19 infection to make a living

Street hawkers, Bangkok, Thailand

Despite the new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen many more cases and deaths than last year, many street hawkers and vendors are still out and about in Bangkok to earn money, even if it means putting themselves at risk of getting infected.

One such hawker told Thai PBS that she still has to sell her traditional Thai dessert, called “Khanom Tom” or coconut balls, to make a living. She said, because of the pandemic, however, she only sells half of the 10 kilograms she used to sell per day.

“My income is much lower than before, because people are too scared to go out. Before the pandemic, I managed to earn 1,000 baht a day. Now I earn only 500. That’s down by half. I’m also scared of being infected, because I’m out on the street, but I have to do it.”

Another street hawker, who sells fried dumplings, also has a lower income now, as she used to earn more than 1,000 baht a day. She also said that she has to save money and reduce the amount of raw materials she uses to prepare the dumplings.

“I have to save money now. Forget about travelling out of town. I don’t think about travelling anymore, because now it’s all about earning money. I also have debts. I have to pay for my rent, and I still need to eat. The fight has to go on. Sometimes I don’t earn enough money, not enough to do anything.”

While this street hawker, who sells fresh flowers, also says that her regular customers, especially those from massage shops, have disappeared, but she still has to pay her rent.

“Some regular customers don’t come anymore, because they have to save money. People from massage shops, who regularly ordered flowers from me, have stopped, which has reduced my income. Non-regular customers are buying small amounts, for 10-20 baht, but I still have to pay my 5,000 baht rent.”

Another couple, who sell COVID-19 protection equipment, are also getting a lower income, as many flea markets have been closed to prevent the spread of the virus. Therefore, they had no choice but to sell their goods from the back of their truck.

As many vendors have to sell their goods on the streets to make a living, they are urging the government to speed up its vaccination program, to control the spread of the virus, so that the economy can recover as soon as possible.


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