Covid-19 crisis brings out the empathy
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Covid-19 crisis brings out the empathy

Jeh Jong, the owner of a well-known fried pork shop in Klong Toey, prepares meals for doctors and medical personnel to ensure their stomachs are full as they work hard to combat the Covid-19 virus. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Jeh Jong, the owner of a well-known fried pork shop in Klong Toey, prepares meals for doctors and medical personnel to ensure their stomachs are full as they work hard to combat the Covid-19 virus. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

As the Covid-19 virus continues whipping us with more infections, 1,136 cases at last count, a wave of empathy has surged in our society.

Thailand is at a crossroads, with people wondering whether it will end up like Italy with soaring fatalities or whether it will be able to successfully contain the dreaded disease.

Earlier this week, the Prayut Chan-o-cha government put the country under a state of emergency in a move to control people's movements.

The stiff measures, including the shutting down of shopping malls, entertainment and service venues in the capital and nearby provinces as well as a curb on interprovincial travel, came a bit late because the number of infections had soared.

I blame this on the government being complacent enough to allow an army-owned boxing stadium to open despite warnings that it might become a virus hotspot. And it did.

It is reported that at least a third of the infections were contracted by either people who were in physical contact with the stadium staff or had visited the venue on the night of March 6. That is horrible!

Other infections were contracted in a pub in Thong Lor and in a public gathering at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Now the government is relying on a team of top doctors to communicate with the public, who say that if people ignore the edict of social distancing, then the number of cases will rise to 25,225 by April 15. However, the doctors say, if we cooperate and stay at home, the number could be capped at 7,745 by that time.

Over the past weeks, the virus has brought several rich countries with advanced public health systems to their knees. The only way we will be able to win the battle against the virus is if we discipline ourselves. It is necessary for us to practice social-distancing and self-quarantine in suspected cases to stop the infections from exploding.

For Thailand, 2020 has been annus horribilis from the get go, with the PM2.5 pandemonium, the murderous gold shop robbery in Lop Buri and the Korat shooting that claimed 30 lives.

Yet this crisis has brought out the empathetic nature of people.

Members of the public have started raising donations for doctors and medical personnel who are on the front lines of the battle. Some people are providing food to those who have lost their jobs or become penniless overnight due to the stiff measures imposed by the state.

The virus hit Yala, a quiet Muslim-majority province, very hard with many cases resulting from the Jhor Qudamak & Ulamak Malaysia 2020 gathering. The 26 cases in the province include two nurses and a doctor from a hospital in Bannang Sata.

The hospital has been closed and all medical staff put under a 14-day quarantine.

Meanwhile, people have stepped up to sew protection gear for staff at Muang Yala hospital, which is suffering a severe shortage of medical supplies. Locals have pitched in, making donations to help ease the plight of doctors and hospital staff.

Similar heart-warming incidents are occurring in other provinces, where locals are standing up to help those who are working hard to tackle the disease.

This is in sharp contrast to those who are profiting from hoarding much-needed protection supplies.

Businesses are also helping out. Some hotels have offered up rooms for treatment, while Thammasat University was the first to open a 308-bed hospital for Covid-19 patients at its Rangsit campus. Now other universities are following suit.

Restaurants in several provinces have also decided to step up and help those in need. Among them is a chicken rice shop owner in Bangkok, who is distributing free meals to those who have lost their jobs with a sign on his shopfront reading "please pick up one".

Some operators in Chon Buri province have extended their largesse to doctors and medical staff in Pattaya, while a popular fried pork shop in Bangkok delivers 1,200 meals to health personnel in four hospitals in Bangkok daily to ensure those saving lives are working with full stomachs.

Celebs and public figures have also joined in, with some digging deep in their pockets to make personal donations.

One celeb has launched a 20-baht campaign, which encourages members of the public to donate just 20 baht each for hospitals.

As of press time, this campaign had earned 11 million baht.

Big companies area also helping out by providing alcohol-based sanitisers to education institutes, hospitals and state agencies, while some insurance companies are issuing special policies for doctors and other staff. The list could go on and on.

The last time there was such a surge of empathy and humanity was in 2011, when the country was hit by the "great flood".

Before that, people rose to help ease the suffering of those affected by the 2004 tsunami.

Most, if not all of us, were touched by pop idol Artiwara "Toon" Kongmalai's phenomenal run from the country's southernmost tip to its northernmost point in 2017, which raised a total of 1.3 billion baht for 11 needy hospitals.

Experience has taught us that we need to stand united to overcome this crisis and though there are lots of kind people reaching out to those in need, more support is required.

After all, the politicians need a break to concentrate better on official anti-virus efforts.

Hence, it is up to us to believe in our strength and allow kindness and generosity to lead us past this challenge. It is up to us all whether or not we win this battle.

Chairith Yonpiam

Assistant news editor

Chairith Yonpiam is assistant news editor, Bangkok Post.

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