“What comes next?” is a common question in our home as our kids are trying to understand where this COVID-19 path will lead us. Since it’s our first pandemic, we tell them honestly that we don’t know but that we are journeying together as a family. We’ve got them. They’ve got us. God has us all.
The Current Situation in Thailand
Asia has been grappling with this virus for longer than the rest of the world. In some ways, Thailand has already been modifying life in little ways for weeks. With tourism representing 20% of GDP, Thailand did not initially close it’s borders though health checks were put in place. Now, Thailand has closed it’s land and sea borders and the number of flights is decreasing.
Last week, as the infection numbers started to rise faster, the government ordered the closure of a number of public places (including schools). This past Saturday, the provincial governments in Bangkok and the 5 surrounding provinces, declared a “soft” lockdown. As the lockdown was announced in the afternoon and came into effect the very next morning, it sparked panic buying.
As an economic engine, the shutdown in Bangkok had immediate impact. Home to day labourers, both foreign and domestic, Sunday saw a surge of people heading out of the city as no work means no money which means there is no way to survive. One local bus station estimated they had over 80,000 people trying to exit the city.
Like all over the world, people seem anxious and unclear about how far this will go.
The Current Family Situation
Our older two are doing online learning. The materials and marking are done by their teachers, but we do need to help facilitate this. Between this and our newborn, our regular family rhythms are way off. We had the kids help build our weekday schedule and now it is laminated and hanging in our makeshift Pandemic School (because everything is far more legit once laminated).
Since our newborn, now 1 month, was born in Bangkok, she is not automatically a Canadian citizen. About 3 weeks ago we applied for her citizenship, but the Embassy was already so inundated that it could not even estimate how long it would take. Last week we applied for a “limited validity passport”. It’s different from a temporary passport but would allow her to travel home to Canada if needed (even before her citizenship is finalized). We’re not planning on traveling, but it seems prudent to have this in place.
We’re crafting and home science experimenting and board gaming – probably just like you are!
The Current Work Situation
Impact School of Missions (ISM) is already on a break while A takes her Mat Leave. Fortunately, she has no interns anywhere in South East Asia at the moment.
For ChildCARE Plus (CCP) Thailand, our sponsored children are with their families as Thailand has just begun summer break (April and May are wicked hot here). We have altered our programming and have sent resources to our Program Managers about good hygiene.
Our hearts have been especially moved by the harsh realities facing refugees, sex workers, and people living in slum communities. Life is already tenuous and the fallout from COVID-19 will reign down hardest on these marginalized communities.
The IDC in Bangkok is no longer open to visitors and we’ve been dropping off food, water, and sanitation items trusting that they are getting to the detainees. Bangkok is home to an extensive sex tourism industry and the women here are treated as disposable. As the numbers of visitors decline, these women are facing brutal choices. The kids have been helping us buy and sort hygiene items for these wonderful souls too.
Wisdom and laughter and prayer and community (albeit digitally-based at times) are powerful ways forward. We believe that small acts of kindness will resonate in big ways. We’re praying and we’re trying to be as present as possible.
** UPDATE March 27
On Tuesday, the federal government invoked a polarizing 2005 law to put emergency measures in place. New rules were implemented on Thursday (yesterday) and will last until April 30th. The list of interventions is expected to grow but currently includes:
- anyone 70 years and older or 5 and under must remain at home
- this coming weekend will begin a 7 day push to have people stay indoors
- foreigners are no longer allowed to enter the Kingdom of Thailand (unless you are a diplomat or have a visa and work permit already)
- anyone entering Thailand must have a health check done within 72 hours prior to travel and must self-quarantine upon entry (phones and apps are being used to track)
- airlines have paused most domestic travel and international flights are packed with exiting foreigners
- national train service is severely reduced
- buses (a major form of transit) are reduced to 50% capacity and tickets are sold-out until the end of April
- nearly 400 checkpoints have been established on roads and travelers will be temperature checked and asked why they are traveling. Any travel deemed non-essential may result in being turned around.
- some of Thailand’s 77 provinces have closed their borders to inter-provincial travel