Governor Verasak Vichitsangsri returned to Samut Sakhon on Friday after battling the coronavirus for almost three months, during which he came close to dying.
The governor was discharged from Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok after spending 82 days in bed — 42 of them unconscious and on a ventilator — and there were times when it was feared he might not survive.
Mr Verasak tested positive on Dec 28 after working on the ground, including inspections of field hospitals set up in the province, where the a virus cluster at the Central Shrimp Market triggered thousands of new cases across the country.
“Thank you to the strong team of Siriraj Hospital for pulling me from the brink of death,” he said at the hospital before departing for Samut Sakhon.
Officials and supporters waiting for him at the provincial hall gave the governor a big hand as his vehicle approached.
“We have been waiting for this day,” said one official. “Eighty-two days of waiting,” she added.
Deputy governor Surasak Phonyoungsong, who temporarily took over Mr Verasak’s duties during his absence, greeted him warmly. “We are happy to see him back to administer the province,” he said.
Mr Verasak was among a handful of senior officials who have contracted the coronavirus while on duty, but his case was the most serious by far. Moral support poured in to him and his family as his condition deteriorated while he received medical treatment at Siriraj.
Governor Verasak Vichitsangsri returns a wai to well-wishers at the provincial hall in Samut Sakhon. (Photo from Samut Sakhon Public Relations Office)
His return to Samut Sakhon came on the same day that the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) officially lifted the “red zone” designation applied to the province since the new outbreak that began in mid-December.
Samut Sakhon has registered 22,170 infections since the new surge on Dec 18, according to CCSA figures. It tops all provinces and accounts for 80% of the 27,594 infections recorded nationwide since the pandemic began early last year.
The situation in the province has improved but Mr Verasak told his staff and supporters on Friday that the fight was not over.
“Samut Sakhon must get back on its feet,” he said. “We will win the fight with Covid soon.”
Despite his return to Samut Sakhon, he is following his doctors’ advice to stay home to recover his strength before he goes back to work.