Life during a pandemic

Since this is not something that would happen often (once is enough, isn’t it?), I will take a note for my future self to read while sitting on a couch in the evening.

This is my first time experiencing life during an epidemic, or “pandemic” as declared by WHO. I live in northern Samut Prakan, just less than 5 kilometres away from Bangkok, so the story here will cover what I experienced in Samut Prakan and Bangkok.

Slowly starting

Late January was when people in Thailand started to realise that the thing — the virus — was coming real. It is Coronavirus Disease, COVID-19. The first case that popped up in Thailand was on January 13th. More people started to wear masks in shopping centres and public air-conditioned areas, while on the outside nothing much had changed because we had been experiencing Bangkok “smog” for quite a while already.

Then the number slowly grew. It started with just a single digit like 3 persons a day or every other day. That already had citizens question their government on how they planned to handle the virus, and public anger slightly grew because the government was not barring entry to the country. But life continued as usual, with more masks.

According to CEOWORLD, Thailand’s healthcare ranked 6th best in the world, so people put trust in healthcare workers that they would be able to handle the virus. Still, many people doubted that they would be able to control the situation under the current government which was facing trust concerns.

In February, stores started to run out of masks and hand sanitiser, and it continued to a shortage where people could not find them at all. Some offered it at unusually higher prices, some offered used products.

When life changed

Forward to March, there came the first fatality in Thailand. The government started to bar entry from some countries. WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

On the weeks where cases in Thailand started to rise at a higher rate, from tens to hundreds, people were stocking up lest a “lockdown” amid confusion and false news. Public gatherings were banned. Schools were shut. Classes went online. Companies started to adopt work from home culture. Songkran Festival was ordered cancelled. Then shopping centres were shut.

As “social distancing” was encouraged, we saw some creative and protective moves which made for unusual and funny photos.

This one from Central Pinklao, a shopping centre in Bangkok, resembles a scene from Master Chef, a cooking TV programme. The mall organised temporary food stalls for restaurants to provide take-away meals because dine-ins were prohibited. Those seats are filled with “riders” — delivery guys from Grab, Foodpanda, etc.

In time of crisis, there was one thing that moved us closer. My father and his younger brother were working from home. The house was more lively. Some days my aunt would come home earlier and we would dine together like it had not happened on weekdays for a long time.

On weekends I had a chance to go to supermarkets after staying at home for the rest of the week. The photos you would see there were people wearing masks, staff guarding shoppers with pre-entry temperature check, and free hand sanitiser placed across the store.

Temperature check

To the end of March, the number of cases in Thailand was still growing steadily at about 100–150 cases a day.

I hope the situation gets better as soon as possible because this surely has affected many lives, less or more, and many things, many procedures in our lives won’t be the same. We will (hopefully) be more cautious, more clean and more prepared.

That’s been it for the first three months. Let’s see what the rest bring.

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