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It’s not over yet. The second wave of the coronavirus is just beginning in the west. Thailand still needs us to wear our masks, social distance, wash our hands and take care of each other.
During the early parts of the pandemic lockdown there is one thing I noticed among my peers, westerners, a large number of them refused to wear masks. As I walked along the waterfront near my home I’d see dozens of Thai people walking, riding their motorbikes to work, or working there on the beach, all wearing masks. Then I’d see a handful of disrespectful irresponsible foreigners not wearing a mask, maybe jogging, riding a road or mountain bike, huffing, puffing and sweating their way along the road. Oblivious.
We are, in the end, guests and should always abide by the rules set here and not by some behavioral idea of where you/we come from.
For some people from the western world the idea of wearing a mask somehow infringes on their ‘rights.’ Some of these confused individuals decided their ‘freedom’ was being curtailed by orders to not spread a deadly, virulent disease to others, a way of thinking that confuses the heck out of me. They chose to not ‘believe’ in a virus and how it’s spread. They felt immortal and didn’t seem to care one whit if they infected others. Viruses don’t care about belief systems or politics from home and they never will.
Signs would pop-up at anti-mask protests in Canada (yes, they are a thing there…sigh) and other western countries saying things like “My body my choice” when the act of wearing a mask is not about their body, it’s about the other person’s health. It’s about not passing COVID-19 on to others if you become infected. It was never about ‘you’ it was and is about everyone else.
One of the many parts of Thai society I like is the courtesy one person shows another. Wearing a mask when ill from a cold or flu is common here and not seen as an infringement on anyone’s rights, but a courtesy to not spread that illness to others at work, in the mall or even the 7-Eleven. Think of your homeland without the common cold running rampant. You could toss out your stash of Nyquil and get on with life in the line up at the local Starbucks.
For many of us, we look at our homelands and sigh. In my case I look at Canada and wonder what is wrong with my fellow Canadians out protesting government orders to wear masks. They attend these marches and protests without wearing masks, the virus continues to spread. Various provincial governments are so eager to ‘reopen’ their economies they allowed, too soon, bars and restaurants to reopen, the virus continued to spread. Those same provincial governments reopened schools without proper protocols in place, the virus continued to spread and in many cases the schools are re-closed. They are now moving into a second wave of infections that makes the first wave look like child’s play, and no, I don’t mean the movies with Chucky, this is real life, and scarier.
That hasn’t happened here in Thailand – so far. The government orders were and are enforced here, for the most part at least. Yes, even the enforcement officials are exhausted by this. The population in general has understood that in order to contain a deadly disease everyone would need to participate. We’ve all heard the trope “The cure can’t be worse than the disease” spoken by people who think their ‘freedom’ and cash-flow is more important than life itself. It is not.
I for one am happy with the results of the virus containment efforts by both the Thai government and the population in general, us expats included. Although mask compliance is waning at street level, there is still no entrance allowed to any store or mall without one. Thai people have understood that the cure is not worse than the disease. Make up all the metaphors you want to argue against the lockdown, that will not change the infection and death rates anywhere. Compliance to an orderly containment system will.
Now we, Thai people, retired expats, English teachers and all the others from the other nations who are here working for Thai companies need to take on the monumental task of building back better. I know, that’s a catch phrase being used everywhere but, it holds true. Our lives here and in our homelands have changed. It’s up to us to design and define a new way of doing business and taking care of each other.
As Dr. Johnny Fever would say “Hang in there fellow babies, it’s almost over.” Reopening is imminent, so do your part without complaint (or as little as possible) keep wearing your mask, this too shall pass.