As the rest of the world starts to open up again Thailand is one of a smaller number of countries that is slowly shutting down – drip feeding new rules and regulations each day.
And in Thailand’s case with different rules in each province and sometimes in each village.
It is so exhausting.
Elsewhere there are travel bubbles opening – albeit in a dribble rather than a flood.
People are traveling – though in the US they never really stopped which was part of the problem.
Elsewhere people are getting tested. I was listening to a UK radio station. Everyone in the UK is entitled, on the NHS, to be tested.
The 2 main tests are:
PCR tests – mainly for people with symptoms, they’re sent to a lab to be checked.
Rapid lateral flow tests – only for people who do not have symptoms, they give a result in 30 minutes using a device similar to a pregnancy test. These are available twice a week to the public.
Both tests are free.
And people are getting vaccinated – in large numbers. That is going to give people the confidence to travel; to go to cinemas; to stay with friends; to eat together; to see family.
Here is the NHS’ Covid-19 page. Wonderfully clear and simple.
Meanwhile in Thailand – there is no public testing. If you have symptoms you can get tested; for a fee that varies depending upon where you are.
Honestly; if I had symptoms I would not know where to go; where to get tested. Like most people the prospect of incarceration in a “field-hospital” is alarming and means I would likely isolate at home; dose up with ibuprofen and vitamins and cross anything that still moves.
In Thailand – the number who have been vaccinated is far too low. There is no domestically produced vaccine. There is a contract between Astra Zeneca and a local company called Siam Bioscience Co Ltd. You can read elsewhere about that company and its ownership. Suffice it to say that there is no evidence yet that this company was well-positioned to produce a vaccine for at least 60 million people.
There is no clear vaccination strategy or timetable.
It has been one year of wearing masks in 35C plus temperatures in public places. It is hard to have any sympathy for European or North American anti-maskers.
One year of constant changes of what is and is not open.
One year of having your temperature taken everywhere you go – malls, stores, 7-11s, cafes.
One year of regularly closed schools and home-learning.
One year of reading about hiso parties and people who are privileged enough to think that they are somehow immune.
One year of being told what to do by people who fail to follow their own instructions.
One year of not knowing whether you can travel between any two places in Thailand. One year of empty resorts. One year of empty bars and restaurants.
One year of not being able to leave the country – or you can leave but there is little chance of being able to return home.
One year of watching businesses close; of hearing stories of people out of work; or who have no work. One year of hardship.
Sure you can do your bit to help out; spend with small street traders; spend in the markets; try and travel domestically when you can; and remember that every bit of help that you can offer will be welcome.
This is the BBC’s Jonathan Head on twitter: “Many governments have stumbled in dealing with Covid-19. Those that haven’t, like Jacinda Adern in NZ, tend to enjoy strong public trust and reputations for agility and competence. Thailand’s government, stacked with cronies and old-style godfathers, has none of these qualities.”
And we are paying the price now. We are at that miserable stage where we all know someone or of someone who has a positive diagnosis. Every province in Thailand is impacted. There is still no centrally-instructed lockdown. But some villages simply close the roads in and out. The economic impact is grievous.
The latest dictate – now in over 50 provinces – is that you have to wear a mask if you are not alone in your car. That includes wearing a mask even when your passenger is your spouse or partner. The fine is up to Baht 20,000.
It was only 38C today when I was driving.
This is hard. It is not yet out of control. But it does not feel in control. The suspicion is that the number of cases is much higher than is being reported.
Opening up Thailand for tourists this year is increasingly unlikely. Being able to leave the country and return to our homes and families in Thailand is increasingly unlikely.
The opportunity for Thailand is to play catch up. The healthcare infrastructure is there. The volunteers in place. Yet the government solution was a sweeping transfer of powers from ministers to the prime minister to improve the efficiency of handling the Covid-19 situation. I doubt many are reassured.
Vaccine availability and roll-out in short order would give people the reassurance to get back to near normal lives and to live with this virus for the foreseeable future.