A COVID story: ‘I called all the numbers.’ The gov’t did nothing.

Ponlawat Poungsiri and the stuff he spent THB3,000 to ride out COVID-19 at home. Photos: Ponlawat Poungsiri
Ponlawat Poungsiri and the stuff he spent THB3,000 to ride out COVID-19 at home. Photos: Ponlawat Poungsiri

When the sheer volume of infections overwhelmed hospitals, the government shifted gears and discontinued mandatory hospitalization. As the caseload grew so large as to crush Thailand’s robust medical system, officials vowed to direct resources to people isolating at home. Food. Medicine. Consultation.

The message was clear: We’ll help you.

Now that people are dying at home unattended, it’s unclear how many of those promises were kept. It was an errant Facebook post the other night that got my attention: a Typical Bangkok Dude detailing in a matter-of-fact way his and his wife’s illness. I reached out and, a few messages into chatting, he called, saying he was still feeling shitty and it was easier to talk.

Ponlawat Poungsiri’s is just one story among a deluge of examples, many more unfortunate. But it said a lot about the state of affairs and I felt it was worth reproducing from my notes below:

You shared a photo of your home supplies, including some traditional medicine? Did the government send you that?

No man, it was all my money. I paid everything my own money. Antigen test 450 baht. Lab test 3,000 baht. I spent about 3,000 on medicine. The Thai traditional stuff is Fa Thalai Chon. Right now, most people think that if don’t have the COVID, you need to eat 15 capsules per day. They think it will help protect but it’s for treatment. I took three times a day for five days, then another five days. I didn’t believe it, but I got better. I’m took some kra chai khao to – I’m not sure how to say it – help antibodies or something. Some Vitamin C and a painkiller.

What happened? Were you vaccinated?

I started feeling sick 15 July. Took two para. Put on [cologne], can’t smell anything. Bought antigen test kit online. Paid 450 baht, they sent it. Positive, but can’t be sure 100%. Went to hospital on 17th for lab test, 3,000 baht. Positive, so 100% have it. No vaccine. Never trusted a free vaccine. I’m waiting for the Moderna. I paid for it already [for future delivery by a private hospital].

Were you out partying?

I stay home, play video games for six months watching almost all of the Netflix they have. Four or five days before [I got sick], I went to market to make some New Orleans Chicken Wing. It sounds funny, but it’s delicious. You should try it. I go to the market every two weeks. Which means I go to market two or three times a month. I avoid going after 5 o’clock because the workers will be out. I avoid them. I wear a mask, I did all the things I should do. I still got the COVID; I don’t know why.

So isolating at home, what help have you received?

Ponlawat Poungsiri and Jamjuree Poungsiri with their test results. Photo: Ponlawat Poungsiri
Ponlawat Poungsiri and Jamjuree Poungsiri with their test results. Photo: Ponlawat Poungsiri

I called the numbers. 1330, 1506, 1668. I called all the numbers. They didn’t answer. 1330 answered me.

I am green. There’s green, yellow, red. They said can you wait in your home, we’ll contact you again in one to three days. That was 17th July. After that no one contacted me until 25th. Someone called me, she said she was from, what do you call it, the Thai Red Cross. She said “How are you? We will send you a meal.” It had been 10 days, no contact. I had my food. i said “No thank you, send it to someone with a worse case than me.” since then no one’s contacted me. So I still chew the medicine from the first day. Today is the last day; I finished Fa Thalai Chon and use painkiller seven more days.

But the point is, you know, the government, they try to say, “Hey, don’t panic. If you get the ‘vid, just if you can, stay at home. We’ll take care of you. We’ll send you three meals a day and some doctor or nurse will call you twice a day, and we’ll give you medicine.” I know some people on Facebook say they got food. But I don’t know what percentage they are.

I’m sure they’re doing the best they can, on the ground. Just because the government said something would happen doesn’t make it true.

It’s a failed state, man. Fuck the government; we help each other.

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