For two months after Thai authorities closed the construction site due to concerns about the coronavirus, carpenter Tun Nye was unable to send Myanmar parents money to care for his 11-year-old son.
For him or his wife, who lives in a small room in a fragile building with boards and blankets to cover missing windows, trapped in one of more than 600 worker camps scattered around Bangkok. , No work means no income.
In Thailand’s worst virus surge to date, blockades have reduced the number of viruses not found in Bangkok to zero. Volunteer groups work to ensure that they survive.
For 31-year-old Tun Nye, rice bags, canned fish, and other staples dropped by Bangkok Community Help volunteers meant they didn’t have to be hungry that week.
“It’s been three or four months without money, but it’s not enough to eat,” he said after collecting supplies. “And there is no option to go back to Myanmar. It’s worse in Myanmar.”
The government closed the camp at the end of June after spreading delta variant infection clusters to workers living in densely populated areas, further exacerbating the COVID-19 surge in Thailand. Many lost all their income and employers were supposed to have enough food and water for everyone, but many did not.
“There was a lot of supplies in one camp, they were available, and after walking 30 meters (yards) to another camp, I was told to go eat fish without seeing my boss for two weeks. Greg Grange, one of the co-founders of Bangkok Community Help, offers about 3,000 hot meals a day and up to 600 “survival bags” like Tun Nye got.
Founded early in the pandemic last year, the organization has lived in Thailand for 20 years and is a socially dependent restaurant business with more than 400 Thai and foreigners like the 62-year-old Lange from Florida. I grew up to be a volunteer. Media that spreads the word and asks for help.
Donations come from businesses, individuals, and even governments. Some offer their own meals, while others offer packaged merchandise and cash. Survival packaged rice recently distributed in slums near Bangkok’s major commercial port facility was paid through Australian aid. The apples were donated by the New Zealand-Thai Chamber of Commerce.
When the hospital became overcrowded and COVID-19 patients could not be admitted, volunteer doctors and others brought oxygen to their homes, hoping to stay alive long enough until the ICU bed was vacant.
“We were primarily dealing with helping people get food and necessities, but suddenly we dealt with life and people died in our arms — literally.” Said Lange co-founder Friso Polderbert, a Dutchman who lived in Thailand for more than one-third of his 29 years.
“Fortunately the situation got a little better, more beds were free, and the government home quarantine program was working well, but we still send 20-30 people to the hospital every day, I’m giving oxygen, “he said.
New infectious diseases in Thailand peaked at more than 23,400 in mid-August and have recently ranged to around 15,000, but COVID-19 deaths remain high, with 224 on Sunday. It has been reported. The country has confirmed 1.2 million cases and more than 12,800 deaths in a pandemic.
The government hopes that the country is now moving away from the worst wave of this pandemic, which accounts for 97% of all cases in Thailand and more than 99% of deaths.
After a highly critical start of vaccination, about 35% of the population has been vaccinated at least once and about 12% have been fully vaccinated. In Bangkok, over 90% make one shot and over 22% make two shots.
Epidemiologist Dr. Taweesap Sirapla Pasiri, senior adviser to the government’s disease management department, said:
Last week, blockage restrictions were relaxed and under strict supervision, many construction projects turned green to resume work.
Taweesap said many of the construction workers have been vaccinated at least for the first time, and many worksites are starting to operate under what the authorities call the “bubble and seal” regulation. Please contact us to prevent COVID-19 from invading or spreading beyond the site.
“We are applying this concept to other workplaces like factories,” he said.
When the camp was first closed, a group of Bangkok residents formed the We Care For Ourselves group, which quickly revealed that many workers were in crisis.
They created an online platform to match camp needs with the donations available to better target help and shared information with Bangkok Community Help and other groups.
Although the situation is improving, group member Yuwadee Assavasrisilp said that many unregistered workers have not yet been vaccinated and there is an ongoing need in the city’s slums as rumors about the group spread. He said he was starting to hear more about.
If people test positive, they are forced to quarantine in their own home. This usually means that the virus spreads to the family, she said. And many are so poor that they get out of isolation just to work to support their families.
“Without volunteers, we would have seen more people die because they missed the government system. The number of volunteers in Thailand is skyrocketing. This shows the generosity of the people. Crisis In Thailand during — but at the same time, it reflects the government’s major failure in dealing with this pandemic. ”
A recent outbreak at Thun Nai’s camp, which accommodates 112 crew members building a mansion for the oil king, meant it had to remain closed for almost longer, but the workplace reopened last week. Approved for Both he and his wife were infected with the virus, but were able to return to work because they had no serious symptoms and had a negative test result about a week ago.
“Everyone is looking forward to it,” he said, his smile wide enough to be seen through his surgical mask. “We haven’t had any income for a long time.”
For volunteer groups, it’s just another stage of a long pandemic.
Bangkok Community Help, in collaboration with local governments, opened a 52-bed isolation center in an elementary school last week that was not used for a pandemic. And over the weekend, volunteers comprehensively tested the entire neighborhood to get better data on infection rates.
“We don’t stop. We just adapt,” Polderbert said.
Associated Press journalists Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul and Tassanee Vejpongsa contributed to this report.