When remote working isn't any option

Working from home amidst Covid-19 is a luxury not many can afford due to the nature of their jobs. Life talks with people from five occupations who are still working and thriving out there, to see how they are adjusting their work style and staying safe while getting the job done.

Dr Jeamjira Intarangsri. Photo courtesy of Dr Jeamjira Intarangsri

Dr Jeamjira Intarangsri, 33

Obstetrician and gynaecologist

Originally from Sukhothai Hospital, Dr Jeamjira is currently undertaking fellowship training in gynaecologic oncology at Rajavithi Hospital. Aside from treating her own patients, Dr Jeamjira and other doctors find themselves with an extra task, since the Covid-19 spread has gotten worse. They now have to help out at the hospital's Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) Clinic and perform screening tests for patients with respiratory problems who may be at risk of being infected with the virus. The hospital has around 200 doctors, all of whom are assigned in alphabetical order at the clinic in rotation.

Dr Jeamjira has been put on the task once. During the screening, part of her work is to check whether the patient has been to any risky locations.

"We always ask them that. And we also tell them the cons of not telling us the whole truth. However, if they choose to conceal it, we can't force it out of them," she said. "Those who realise the importance of it will tell us everything."

As someone on the frontlines of this healthcare battle, Dr Jeamjira admitted she's also scared she could be infected. "I may be scared, but I'm not panicking," she added. "I think it's more about being aware of yourself and your own actions at all times. Is the mask on? Am I touching my face? Am I practising social distancing?"

Throughout the day, the doctor finds herself washing her hands even more often than before. Dr Jeamjira currently lives alone in a condominium away from her family. After coming back from work, she will take a shower immediately. She also cleans her personal belongings -- such as wristwatch, mobile phone, pen, keys and identification tag -- with alcohol daily.

She opined that these protective measures will have to be observed potentially for months.

"We have yet to reach the peak period of this outbreak. If we follow social distancing strictly, the situation will gradually get better. But if even once we become careless, then we could be in this for a long time," she said.

"Even if we choose to lock down the city, the virus will still spread if we don't keep a distance between one another," she concluded.

Nuttadanai Klintongbai. Photo courtesy of Nuttadanai Klintongbai

Nuttadanai Klintongbai, 31

Food deliverer

As many people self-isolate at home, they are more inclined than ever to order food delivery. And for the deliverers, business has never been better.

"The amount of orders has doubled," said Nuttadanai, who has delivered food for Line Man for over a year. He starts working around 11am until early in the evening, riding in areas such as Bang Khen and Lat Phrao to deliver orders from restaurants inside shopping malls and street-side eateries to his customers' home.

"Lunch and dinner periods have always been a peak time for us. But, recently, we're getting many orders starting from 11am. People are ordering earlier to get in before noon, which is usually very busy," he said. "We now have orders coming in throughout the day. Things only quiet down after 8-9pm, after most restaurants are closed."

"In the long run, the orders will just continue to rise," he added.

To protect himself, the food and his customers, Nuttadanai wears a face mask and uses hand sanitiser all the time. When he arrives at a destination, he will observe social distancing by standing aside and letting customers take their food from the delivery box or the motorcycle's front basket themselves. Money can then be left in place of food. And after he pockets the cash, he will wash his hands and wipe the delivery box between orders.

Nuttadanai is currently using his own sanitiser and mask, but said Line Man will distribute these necessities to its riders within two weeks.

Ati Boonseram. Photo courtesy of Ati Boonseram

Ati Boonseram, 29

Reporter

As a reporter for New18, Ati regularly travels with his cameraman to cover stories. Lately, his assignments have brought him to places like hospitals where Covid-19 tests are conducted. He also has to meet with people who have been to risky areas.

"We have no idea who's infected and we're constantly worried," he said. "Still, it's not our choice. We still have to work as we're assigned. The company is planning for other departments to work from home, but not field reporters and camera crews. For us, what we get is additional insurance."

"I wish I could work from home, too. Many press conferences and events now provide a live broadcast on Facebook. It's possible to get footage from that and we can report from it. However, this has yet to be allowed," he added.

So now, Ati makes do with masks, gel and gloves that he has to provide himself. He carries a bottle of alcohol to spray on the microphone. Another item of protective gear he uses is a face shield, which Vajira Hospital works with the Thai Journalists Association to provide for reporters.

There may come a time when he has to consider whether it'll be worth risking himself in exchange for an income, said Ati.

If Covid-19 prolongs and he has to continue working in this exact condition with no improvement, he said he may change jobs.

"I don't know if it'll ever get to that point, but I'll have to save myself too. I have a family. If I end up becoming a carrier that can infect them, that would be catastrophic."

Panadda Thammasiri. Photo: Melalin Mahavongtrakul

Panadda Thammasiri, 38

Ice cream vendor

Summer is usually Panadda's favourite time, as it's the season when her coconut ice cream and shaved ice dessert sell best. She's been running her ice cream cart for three years, and can generally make 1,000-2,000 baht a day.

But this year, summer is not what it used to be. As people mostly dine in, fewer people visit her. Nowadays, she's only making around 500 baht a day.

"But I still have to do this anyway, since I have expenses to pay. It's better than not selling anything at all," said Panadda. "The economy isn't all that great to begin with. And now this virus? It's even worse."

Currently, Panadda is exploring delivery applications, but finds it hard to apply and get a presence online. The extra charges, fees and deductions also make her hesitant.

As she is from Chai Nat province, Panadda wants to go back home, but said she most likely cannot do so.

"I'll have to be in quarantine for two weeks if I go back," Panadda said, adding that she fears she'll be confined within her own home, with no chance of making a living.

"I just can't afford to do that," she said. "And if this virus stays for a long time, I also don't know what I'm going to do or how I'm going to live."

Somjai Yammo. Photo courtesy of Somjai Yammo

Somjai Yammo, 48

Maid

Due to different venues being shut down, many people from rural provinces have gone back to their hometown to find work as Bangkok comes to a standstill. But for Somjai, who has been working as a maid for over a decade here, she fortunately finds her job barely affected by the pandemic.

"Work goes on as usual for me. There are houses still to be cleaned," said Somjai, who is from Uttaradit province. "I still have my income, so I'm not going anywhere yet."

Somjai works six days a week cleaning condominiums and houses in different parts of Bangkok. During the pandemic, she has made several adjustments to stay safe, with the help of her clients. Some of them allow her to stay overnight at their place in order to limit the chance she could be exposed to the virus outside. They also allow her to cook, and even order food for her too, so she doesn't have to go out.

Somjai said she's lucky her clients include doctors, who would give her advice on how to take care of herself, and even give her face masks and hand gel.

While Covid-19 doesn't affect her work much, Somjai said it's made her more careful in public spaces. As she still commutes via buses and skytrain, she'll wear masks and use hand gel, and also try to leave a space between herself and others as much as possible.