Here is an update on how the Coronavirus situation is unfolding in Thailand. The total number of recorded cases of the Coronavirus is a little more than 3,000, with a little over 50 deaths since the outbreak began in January. Nearly 2,900 of those cases are said to have recovered.
Thailand is beginning to relax its restrictions as malls start to open up. Hygiene measures (unclear if these are widespread or only in the fanciest malls) might include: density controls, QR codes and registration to visit the mall, using robots to scan body temperature, machines to spray disinfectant at shoppers’ feet and hands.
Masks are required everywhere and international flights are still banned through the end of June.
Economic Challenges Due to the Coronavirus
For many of our students, their families, and the local community, one of the greatest threats remains the economic situation. The measures employed to curb the virus has created intense economic stress for many, even as the government has given relief aid. When Thailand went into lockdown in March, an estimated 200,000 migrant workers returned to their homes in neighboring countries. As the country opens again and migrant workers begin to want to return, they will need to be quarantined and the workers will have to bear those costs themselves. Due to many bureaucratic hurdles, many have difficulty accessing unemployment benefits even in cases where they might be entitled.
We have set up a coalition along with 12 other organizations (the Coordination Center for COVID-19 Assistance) and we work closely with the USAID Thailand CTIP program to meet and advocate for these vulnerable groups’ needs.
Meanwhile, families working in jobs that can’t go online, for example, farming, are also caught with the dilemma of having to stay at home with their children when schools are closed, and are thus unable to show up to work and get paid.
The other major challenge is maintaining schooling. Those students who are able to continue their education online, like Cat and Jaeng, cite difficulties in having to wait for instructors to respond to questions, missing opportunities due to schedule conflicts, or going a long time before hearing from a professor. However, many students, especially younger kids, cannot continue their education online. Schools may have closed down entirely, or parents are forced to find the money to provide resources to allow for online learning. Many can’t, which raises concerns about exacerbating socioeconomic and regional inequality in education. The longer these restrictions in equal access persist the harder it becomes to overcome them. Even among those who manage to find a way, we know of families who are borrowing money to make it possible, while not returning to farming jobs because they need to stay home to protect their children.
We’re continuing to try to raise funds to meet students’ needs through the rest of this year. If you can help contribute, please consider a gift through our donation page here.