We're chatting to expats who live and work in Thailand about the pandemic situation here. Ceri moved to Bangkok in late 2019, so living here during Covid times is really almost all he's known.
Could you introduce yourself (where are you from? how long have you lived in Thailand? and what do you do for a living?)
Hi. I am from the UK but after university spent most of my (working) life living abroad in Europe, USA, Latin America and The Middle East (over 21 years in total). I am a chartered accountant.
My husband and I first came to live in Bangkok in August 2019. We moved to Thailand for a variety of reasons. Primarily, I was offered a senior position here in Bangkok. We were previously living in France and just wanted a change. We had been to the Thai islands many times before (even on honeymoon) so wanted to sample Bangkok, knowing that it would be a good hub for long weekends etc., Little did we know what would happen next.
In general, how do you think Thailand has handled the pandemic up to now?
Thailand, on the whole, has handled the pandemic well, until Songkran this year. That decision to allow people to travel was a disaster. I think it was a situation where the government had to weigh up cancelling again, or just letting everyone free. What is done, is done. Don’t forget, this holiday is when most people get to see their families. There are also the economic consequences of cancelling again. Six of one, half a dozen of the other on that argument.
If you were put in charge of things right now, what would be the first rules or things you would change?
Now of course, the situation is just getting worse and worse. I argue with myself that if they were testing as many people at this point last year, would the numbers have been better or worse? Who knows? I certainly do not think fatalities would have been as bad.
What do we do next? The first thing I would do would be to increase vaccinations as much as possible. It is impossible to decipher what is going on internally and also difficult to get an appointment to get a vaccination. The main point is that they have to vaccinate as many people as possible to achieve herd immunity (both Thai and Foreigners).
For expats, embassies are truly playing an extremely poor part in this. The French and Swiss have stepped up (there may be others, but certainly not the UK or Ireland). All countries could contribute.
They do not see Thailand as struggling, which it is. So, what do we do? Let's close the shopping malls but keep the parks open. The wet/dry markets, looking at the data, look responsible for many clusters. Are they open or closed? Officially closed but ‘open’?
I think we are at the point of needing a period of full lockdown, the same as last year - with only supermarkets and pharmacies allowed to open.
Most importantly, open the bloody borders. It is ridiculous the hoops that fully vaccinated people have to go through. I know there is money in ‘red tape’ but there is more money in tourism.
Don’t get me started on inter-provincial travel either. It is ludicrous. Completely incomprehensible. Someone needs to sort that out. Would love to have a couple of days away but the hassle of rules, tests and quarantine are so confusing. I’m just going to sit it out in Bangkok.
Let’s talk about you personally. What is the most regrettable thing that the pandemic has robbed you of or changed about your life?
After living abroad for so long, the ability to travel had never concerned me. I was able to get anywhere easily but I think very carefully about this now. In retrospect, I think I was very fortunate, which is a complete fabrication as we should all be able to travel, without hindrance.
I now think about it the problems and difficulties that friends are facing. I was able to freely travel and thankfully be there for both the passing of my mother and father (and had time to spend with each of them before they passed).
Has the pandemic had any positive impacts on your life?
I was diagnosed with PTSD late last year. It could have been triggered by the pandemic, no one will know. I also have severe sleep apnea (glad this is not a dating site). So, with my health which is more important, I have quit my job. Some may say it is a negative but I am most certain it's a positive.
I am not sure I can blame it on the pandemic but since quitting by job I have become more disciplined - exercising regularly (lost a lot of weight) and being far more conscious about what I eat, but I still enjoy what I want, when I want.
Financially, this has curtailed our lifestyle. Notwithstanding that, we are still enjoying our life in Thailand. Standing strong and seeing it out.
When do you predict the world will return to some sort of normality and we will be able to travel abroad and maybe get to remove these damn face-masks, etc?
In terms of restrictions, this time last year, I predicted the end of 2021. I am now predicting mid-2022. If Thailand is following in Australia's footsteps, then it could be longer. And there was me thinking I would be able to get back to Europe for Christmas this year without having to quarantine (+ COE + tests + God knows what else). I think that face masks are here for several more years at least.
Things started to go pear-shaped in March 2020. Over the past year or so, has your enthusiasm for living in Thailand increased or decreased?
If I had a short-term view, I would leave. With a long-term view, I think it is worth staying around until things calm down and calibrate. I have a long-term view.
When we get to the light at the end of this long tunnel, have you promised yourself to make lifestyle changes or do some things differently?
We will try to carry on our lifestyle but certainly travel more. We really tried to make the most of our travel (internally, of course) when there were no restrictions. We visited many places and are still completely in love with Thailand. I still don’t get the dual pricing but there you go (actually, I do get it but don't agree with it).
For someone who doesn’t know how to get through the days and is perhaps suffering mentally, what would be your advice?
Anyone wishing to talk about mental health issues, have a general chat or if you are having a down day, please feel free to contact me through Phil, who will give you my personal contact info. I am certainly not a professional but understand how talking to an outsider does help. I would be more than happy to connect with you, or connect you to a professional individual. Down days are the worst. I still get them, but less frequently. It is always good to talk.