Matthew, Lydia receive WBC award

Matthew, Lydia receive WBC award

Celebrity couple who contracted Covid-19 lauded for raising virus awareness

A screenshot from a video clip posted on Instagram of Matthew Deane Chanthavanij and his wife Lydia Sarunrat from a hospital on April 8. (matthew.deane1 instagram)
A screenshot from a video clip posted on Instagram of Matthew Deane Chanthavanij and his wife Lydia Sarunrat from a hospital on April 8. (matthew.deane1 instagram)

The World Boxing Council has given awards to a celebrity couple and their doctor for helping raise awareness of Covid-19 risks and dangers.

The “Heroes of Humanity” awards were presented to Matthew Deane Chanthavanij, his wife Lydia Sarunrat and Dr Wichai Techasathit, chief of the medical team at Bumrungrad Hospital, at the WBC Asia office in Bangkok on Saturday afternoon.

Matthew has been applauded for choosing to go public about his Covid-19 infection at a time when authorities were still playing down the risks of being exposed to the coronavirus.

The actor and boxing enthusiast, who owns the Khongsittha Muay Thai camp, was the emcee at a boxing match at the New Lumpinee Boxing Stadium on March 6 where 4,000 people attended, among them returnees from Italy where the disease was spreading in full force.

A week later, Matthew posted on Instagram the test results issued by a private hospital on March 13 and urged people who had been in contact with him over the past few days to monitor their symptoms.

The immediate reaction of authorities was to warn him of legal consequences if what he posted was false and caused panic among the public.

But it turned out to be true. His wife, singer-actress Lydia, was also infected and the couple endured a traumatic 30-day stay in hospital before they were discharged. They discussed their experience in a video posted on instagram.

Matthew’s revelation led to a major effort to track down all the spectators who had been at the boxing match on that fateful day. It turned out that hundreds of people there were infected and had unknowingly passed it on to others, quickly turning the stadium into one of the superspreader sites in Thailand.

The boxing stadium is owned by the Army, which went ahead with the bouts despite a government order two days earlier for all sporting activities  to cease. The officers involved in the event have been transferred to inactive posts pending the outcome of an investigation.

Pol Gen Kowit Phakdiphum, president of WBC Asia and a WBC vice-president, said that president Mauricio Sulaiman had asked him to present the awards to the couple and their doctor.

“They alerted people of the risks and encouraged them to take better care of themselves,” he said.

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