Thais abroad share Covid tales

Thais abroad share Covid tales

Treatment timely and free in Australia and Russia, with little confusion in delivery process, writes Poramet Tangsathaporn

People of vulnerable groups flock to the Bang Sue Grand Station in Bangkok last Thursday for Covid-19 vaccinations. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)
People of vulnerable groups flock to the Bang Sue Grand Station in Bangkok last Thursday for Covid-19 vaccinations. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

The Thai government should learn a few things from overseas countries as it strives to end the Covid-19 pandemic, Thais living abroad say.

Thammarit Khamplod, 31, a PhD student in engineering at the University of Manchester, received his two doses of Pfizer recently, delivered free as they are provided by the British government.

"As everyone is registered with the National Health Service, or NHS, everyone will have an NHS number, including migrants who entered the UK legally.

"So, there is no need to register for a vaccination. You will get a notification via SMS from your general practitioner and there will be a link to book a time and date," Mr Thammarit said.

The UK vaccine scheme was arranged according to age and risk factors: those 40 years old and above, frontline workers, and vulnerable groups would be the first to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. Those 40 years old or under would get Pfizer or Moderna.

"Unlike Thailand, which has way too many mobile applications providing Covid–19 information, we have only the "NHS Covid-19" app to update everything like tracing our contacts, QR code check-ins, and updates on control measures", Mr Thammarit said.

His university has an NHS joint Covid–19 testing centre, so he had the chance to get tested twice a week for free.

"The university also provides us with a test kit for free. Even in the lab that I am working in, they have a bowl of test kits provided. For normal people, you can get test kits for free by registering for them and the government will send you a kit to your front door," he added.

He said people can test themselves with an RT–PCR test at home and send it back via post. The result is delivered the next day.

"The limitation is about hospitalisation as not everyone will get a bed, even if you have breathing difficulty.

"However, it is understandable that they reserve beds for those in a coma. Their symptoms are much worse and they need intensive care.

"For those who need to be treated at home such as those with light symptoms, the hospital will send medicine to their home and medical staff will call daily," he said.

"Everything is free of charge," he added.

As the British government had imposed a lockdown to contain the virus, many firms were forced to close. He was one of those affected by the lockdown, as he works as a waiter at a Thai restaurant which closed.

The British government provided financial aid up to 80% of the income of both owners and staff.

"They began their vaccination scheme really well. The government says 87.9% of residents inside the UK have now received their first dose and 69.5% their second dose.

If the Thai government has taken the vaccine rollout and welfare management more seriously, Thailand would have avoided its present crisis," he added.

Pongpon Chuencharoen, 30, a political science graduate from St Petersburg University in Russia, shared his experience on getting his first dose of the Russian-made vaccine Sputnik V.

"All I needed to pay was a metro fare as I had to get vaccinated in a department store. Vaccine booths are open there. Everyone in Russia, regardless of nationality, can get a vaccine for free," he said.

"You must show a passport, national ID card, or medical insurance on vaccination day."

A central Russian government website posts updates on the Covid–19 situation, including bookings for vaccines.

Currently, there was no vaccine support for tourists, but the government was working on this.

The Covid–19 test was also free in Russia, while for treatment, if an individual revealed Covid-19 symptoms, he or she can just dial 122 for emergency treatment and the cost is free.

Phanu Laosamran, 27, a host at a Thai restaurant in Sydney, who has lived in Australia for eight years and now an Australian citizen, completed his second dose of Pfizer on Friday. He said his vaccine was provided by the state for free.

"In Australia, the government provides the vaccines to everyone, no matter what visa type. People are, however, complaining that vaccines distribution is slow," he said.

Each region had its own vaccine registration platform. In New South Wales where he lives, he accessed, the regional website, to book appointments.

"The appointment form requires us to list a Medicare card number (the Australian universal health scheme card), but if you do not have one, you may leave it blank and still get vaccinated. On the jab day, they send an SMS notification as a reminder," he added.

The website was like a one-stop service for booking a vaccine appointment, but also provided updates on the Covid–19 situation.

On vaccination day, he was impressed with how medical staff looked after people.

"They asked patients for consent on the vaccine they were going to inject, and even showed you the bottle so you could see the brand."

If people caught the virus, treatment was free, if a patient has a Medicare card.

"In New South Wales, we simply go to hospital. The cases are only in the hundreds," he added.

For welfare, he said the Australian government allocated a fund called "Covid–19 Disaster Payment" for those who lost their income during the lockdown on June 26-July 31.

A Thai friend studying in Australia said she had also received food support from the state, part of an "international student hamper."

He was impressed with the government's approach, he said.

"The measures here are based on common sense. They realise the fact this pandemic hit hard regardless of who you are in society. I hope Thailand can prioritise the needs of Thais people over anything else because they are taxpayers," he said.

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