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TAN Newsletter: October 2020 - Message from Dr. Simon Wallce, Chairperson

Welcome to the October edition of the TAN newsletter and thank you for your continued support during this very difficult time.

The past months have been an unprecedented challenge for all. Personally, and on behalf of the TAN Board sincerely hope that you, your loved ones and businesses are well and have successfully weathered the worst of the pandemic.

Earlier this year, the TAN Board made the decision to suspend all events and activities until normality returns. Although the face to face activities were put on hold, we took the opportunity to stay connected with our friends and supporters via social media and this newsletter initiative.

I have been in Thailand now for seven months. I arrived in early March with every intention of returning to Melbourne in late March when suddenly quarantine was imposed. I was then faced with the prospect of remaining here until such time that the situation improved.

Well, in Thailand the situation did very quickly improve but not so for poor old Melbourne with the second wave causing severe hardship to everyone.

So how was Thailand so successful in virtually eliminating the virus when after all Thailand was the first Country in the World outside of China to be infected?

Thais are very disciplined people, naturally they socially distance and when confronted with a situation, normally they will follow instructions and suggestions. Half the population of Bangkok and Chiang Mai had been wearing face masks to counter the pollution levels plaguing both cities in the early part of the year so to continue with the practice was neither difficult, nor out of place.

The Government quickly brought in quite severe restrictions, a night-time curfew and, much to the chagrin of many, imposed a ban on the sale of alcohol. All flights in and out of Thailand ceased. Very quickly the situation came under control with a very limited number of people becoming infected.

Many questioned the situation and found it difficult to accept feeling that perhaps we were all being misled by a government wanting to play down the risks or completely cover up a worsening scenario. But, quite to the contrary, a Covid19 spokesperson was appointed, a doctor who appeared daily on television answering questions from the press with accurate and current information.

A general feeling of quiet reassurance came about as people went about their daily lives, most working from home, as the situation gradually improved. We are now at a point in time where Thailand has gone for more than 100 days with only one new infection which is posing some problems as the source of the infection is, as yet, unknown.

There have been many cases reported of Thai Nationals in quarantine having been repatriated from Countries all over the Word including one student from Sydney. Hotel quarantine is organised by the Government with very strict controls over the venues with no soft furnishing in the hotel bedrooms, no fabric curtains and no carpets and all rooms are required to have individual air conditioning units.

As it turned out the vast majority of the second wave in Melbourne stemmed from the botched hotel quarantine. Not so in Thailand.

Thailand has been hailed by the WHO as a Country who managed by dint of faith to control the situation.

One slightly different view posed to me some years ago by the venerable Abbott of Bodhivana Monastery in Warburton is that Thailand with all of the devout Buddhist Monks over the past generations so much merit has been gained that it will ultimately protect Thailand from disaster. A pleasant thought.

Until we are able to once again connect in person, please stay well – well away from other people!!

Dr Simon Wallace Honorary Consul General, Royal Thai Consulate General, Melbourne TAN Chairperson

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