11 July 2024

Thailand has been praised on the international stage for the way it is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. But the recent cases, discovered in several provinces, resulting from a group of people who snuck across the border in Chiang Rai province illegally and failed to self-isolate, have unsettled many.

Head of Song Khwae Village in Nan province, Wirun Pukkham, said he is not angry. But he thinks the returnees must realize the important of travelling through legal channels, not sneaking in, and failing to quarantine themselves. These actions get other people, the whole country in trouble.

“I think they are selfish. They should be punished, according to laws,” said Wirun.

Nan is the only one province in Thailand to report zero COVID_19 cases. Part of its success are tough preventive measures with cooperation from every part of society. There was a time when they didn’t allow any non-Nan residents to enter the province then, anyone going in had to be isolated for 14 days.

Wirun is not the only one feeling uneasy about the whole situation. The District Chief of Song Khwae, in the same province, Somkeat Artsung, said it is a matter of having a conscience. “If everyone has common sense and has a conscience and you came from a high-risk country, you have to go through a screening process. If you have symptoms, you can receive treatment, instead of infecting others.”

People line up for a health inspection as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus at the Ministry of Transport at the border crossing over the second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge in Mae Sot in Tak province on October 29, 2020. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

The deputy director of Nan hospital, Dr. Pongthep Wongwatcharapaiboon, admitted that, out of hundreds of ways returnees could sneak in, there is some leakage. What Thailand has to do is to instill a conscience in people. He said Thailand needs strict law enforcement, alongside with a growing conscience. “We have to make everyone realize it is necessary to cooperate. I even think having a conscience is more important, because we won’t be able to keep our eyes on every detail all the time. Everyone has to cooperate seriously.”

Although, most of the people at risk tested negative on the first swab, the incident put the whole country on alert. Health experts say that, if Thailand sticks to strict hygiene measures, like wearing a mask, washing hands, and keeping a distance, the chance of the virus spreading as fast as it did when it first entered Thailand would be very low.

Dr. Pongthep said it is like everyone is a soldier. They have got their weapons but, when there is no war, they put the weapons away. When the adversary returns, everyone takes out their mask. He now expects everyone to wear a mask, 100 percent.

“It is the same as when we beat COVID_19 in the first round. If we can do that, there will definitely not be a wide spread infection.”

by Kiratikorn (Tulip) Naksompop Blauw

Everyone in Chiang Rai to wear face masks as six new COVID-19 cases are reported

A province-wide campaign will be launched in Thailand’s northern border province of Chiang Rai to encourage everyone there to wear a face mask while they are outdoors, after six more COVID-19 cases were recorded today among Thai returnees, from Myanmar’s Thachilek township, and are in local quarantine.