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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand’s first local Covid-19 infection recalls the stigma

Jack Burton



PHOTO: New York Times

Thailand’s first locally transmitted case of Covid-19 recalls the stigmatisation he endured and wants the public to open their minds and not shun those who have recovered from the disease. Thongsook Thongrach was a taxi driver and wants his story to be known. He contracted the virus from foreign customers during the early stages of the outbreak in Thailand. His case was announced on January 31.

Thongsook says he was shocked and cried when doctors told him he was infected with the “Wuhan virus” as it was then known, because there is no known cure. The cabbie was admitted to hospital for treatment, recovered and was eventually discharged. He says, however, that after leaving the hospital, he isolated himself at home for 20 additional days to make sure he was 100% safe.

Thongsook says his first encounter with stigmatisation was when, halfway to their destination, 3 of his passengers asked him to stop and got out, telling him they didn’t want to become infected.

He says he was saddened because he was treated as a disease carrier, but adds that he was not angry with them, because the disease is easily communicable. He only wished they were more informed about the virus, so that they wouldn’t discriminate against those who have been infected and recovered.

The cabbie says that he has met some passengers who offered moral support and urged him to fight on. He felt encouraged, took good care of his health and, moreover, he says, he donates his plasma every 14 days, so that it can be used to treat the other patients.

The Disease Control Department’s deputy director-general says that, according to information from abroad, those who are infected and show minor symptoms can transmit the disease to the other people within the first 8-10 days, thus the use of 14 day quarantine to make sure those in quarantine are safe when they are discharged.

“I wish to inform everyone that patients who have recovered and been discharged from hospital have a very remote chance of infecting other people. So, please give them the chance to pursue their normal lives.”

SOURCE: Thai PBS World


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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