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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand’s “Wild Boar” vows to save his province

Sean Kelly



PHOTO: Narongsak "The Wild Boar" Osotthanakorn - Thai PBS World

The northern province of Lampang been hit by Covid-19, despite the best efforts of its famous governor, Narongsak Osotthanakorn. Who? Narongsak was the face of the rescue mission to retrieve the 13 young men from the Tham Luang cave two years ago and was the Chiang Rai governor at the time.

“When I heard of the first Covid-19 infection in my province, I almost cried.”

The event made national news and has inspired a popular NOVA documentary now being produced by Netflix called Thai Cave Rescue which will include interviews with the boys and their coach. Here’s a short from the recent film ‘The Cave’…

Narongsak masterfully demonstrated his ability to lead and coordinate the team that saved the boys and their coach, and locals in Lampang were hoping his expertise could protect them from the growing threat of the coronavirus. Until Tuesday of last week, Lampang seemed in the clear. It remained one of the 15 provinces still Covid-19 free.

Narongsak, ever the man of logistics, began preparing since the original outbreaks in Wuhan, China had come to light.

At a recent press conference, he said he was worried that the virus might also spread to Thailand.

“I began talking to people and hospitals to take preventive measures, resources and more.”

“The Boar” rallied his province together in preparation of the coming threat of pandemic even before Thailand suffered the first case. When it was discovered that many struggling from Covid-19 required ventilators, he issued a count be made, discovering there were only 40 in the province and he swiftly ordered 30 more as a precaution.

“I have also procured 300 personal protection kits for those who may be exposed to the virus as part of their work,” he added.

He also examined hospitals’ negative pressure rooms, where infectious patients can be isolated, to determine if Lampang could treat infected patients while not spreading it to others in the facility.

“There were just 10 negative-pressure rooms in the province. But with adjustments made to ICU beds, Lampang now has the capacity to handle up to about 400 patients who may contract Covid-19.”

The Wild Boar hoped that all his preparation would not be needed, however that hope was shattered with the discovery that a woman returned from Bangkok to her home province carrying the virus. The woman, a vendor at a busy Bangkok market, developed symptoms of a sore throat and headache on March 17. Three days later, she flew from Bangkok to Chiang Rai, before taking a van to her hometown in Lampang’s Ngao district.

She isolated herself on the second floor of the family home, allowing only her mother to bring her food. Her self quarentine attempts failed when her mother ended up catching the virus and then passing it on to an elderly relative.

“We have closed off their village to prevent any further spread.”

While admitting it was hard to accept the contagion had reached Lampang despite the tireless work of officials and strong cooperation from locals, the governor said he took comfort in the fact that the source was not a local resident.

“Had it been a local resident, that would have suggested that stringent measures already in place are inadequate. But as the infectious case came from Bangkok, I am convinced that our hard work in the past few months was not completely wasted.”

Narongsak is now rallying his officials and locals to contain and manage the situation.

“Our goal now is to make sure that the number of Covid-19 cases in Lampang does not increase.”

SOURCE: Urisara Kowitdamrong Thai PBS World


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