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World Volunteer groups help poorest survive Thailand's worst surge

07:50  06 september  2021
07:50  06 september  2021 Source:   msn.com

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In Thailand ’ s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive . No work has meant no income for him or his wife, who have been confined to one of more than 600 workers’ camps dotted around Bangkok, living in small room in a ramshackle building with boards and blankets to cover missing windows. In Thailand ’ s worst virus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero.

BANGKOK, Thailand — As Thailand ‘ s medical system struggles beneath a surge of coronavirus cases, ordinary people are helping to plug the gaps, risking their own health to bring care and supplies to often terrified, exhausted patients who’ve fallen through the cracks. In the Samai area of Bangkok His volunteer group , Samai Will Survive , has been working around the clock, responding to about a hundred SOS calls daily from desperate COVID-19 patients unable to get the help they need. “We realize how hard working and how tired doctors and nurses are,” says the 38-year-old businessman.

BANGKOK (AP) — For two months, carpenter Tun Nye hasn’t been able to send any money home to his parents in Myanmar to help them care for his 11-year-old son, after authorities in Thailand shut down his construction site over coronavirus concerns.

Myanmar migrant worker Tun Nai sits at a construction camp in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. After Thailand authorities shut down his construction site over coronavirus concerns. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. For two months, carpenter Tun Nye hasn’t been able to send any money home to his parents in Myanmar to help them care for his 11-year-old son, after authorities in Thailand shut down his construction site over coronavirus concerns. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) © Provided by Associated Press Myanmar migrant worker Tun Nai sits at a construction camp in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. After Thailand authorities shut down his construction site over coronavirus concerns. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. For two months, carpenter Tun Nye hasn’t been able to send any money home to his parents in Myanmar to help them care for his 11-year-old son, after authorities in Thailand shut down his construction site over coronavirus concerns. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

No work has meant no income for him or his wife, who have been confined to one of more than 600 workers’ camps dotted around Bangkok, living in small room in a ramshackle building with boards and blankets to cover missing windows.

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Volunteer groups are spreading the word about getting COVID-19 shots to India' s poor and elderly, and ferrying some to vaccination centres in rickshaws and cabs following a surge in infections that killed hundreds of thousands. "We found out that a whole lot of people above 60 weren't even aware that they could vaccinated and protect themselves," co-founder Dr Manu Gupta said. SEEDS members are going door-to-door in the poorer parts of Delhi and the villages of north and west India, helping citizens register their details on the government' s vaccination portal and transporting some of them for

The group gets around 100 calls a day asking for assistance. Sai Mai Will Survive was established during the first wave of Covid in Thailand . At that time, the members could be counted on 1 hand, with possibly a finger to spare. Last August, the volunteer group set up their official Facebook page as they theorised that Covid wasn’t going anywhere fast. Now, there are about 20 times their original number. The volunteers say they are ready to help people in the Sai Mai area, which has a population of about 200,000 people.

Myanmar migrant worker lives his daily lives at construction camps in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. After Thailand authorities shut down his construction site over coronavirus concerns. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) © Provided by Associated Press Myanmar migrant worker lives his daily lives at construction camps in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. After Thailand authorities shut down his construction site over coronavirus concerns. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

In Thailand's worst virus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Volunteer groups are working to ensure they survive.

Myanmar migrant workers live their daily lives at a construction camp in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) © Provided by Associated Press Myanmar migrant workers live their daily lives at a construction camp in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

For Tun Nye, 31, the bag of rice, canned fish and other staples dropped off by Bangkok Community Help volunteers meant not having to go hungry that week.

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“It’s been three or four months with no money and we don’t have enough to eat,” he said after collecting his supplies. “And there’s no option to go home to Myanmar, it’s worse there.”

The government shut down the camps at the end of June after clusters of delta-variant infections spread among the workers living in the close quarters, further escalating a COVID-19 spike in Thailand. Many lost all income, and while employers were supposed to ensure all had enough food and water, many didn’t.

“You would have one camp that had a lot of supplies, they were provided for, and you’d walk 30 meters (yards) to another and they hadn’t seen their boss in two weeks and were told to go fish for food,” said Greg Lange, one of the co-founders of Bangkok Community Help, which delivers about 3,000 hot meals a day and up to 600 “survival bags” like the one Tun Nye got.

Myanmar migrant workers living their daily lives sit at a construction camp in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) © Provided by Associated Press Myanmar migrant workers living their daily lives sit at a construction camp in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Founded early in the pandemic last year, the organization has grown to more than 400 Thai and foreign volunteers like Lange, a 62-year-old native of Florida in the restaurant business who has lived in Thailand for two decades, and relies heavily on social media to spread the word and solicit help.

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Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas sent out a plea Monday morning to his workforce asking for additional volunteers to work at the border, according to an email obtained by Yahoo News. This request comes just a few weeks after he created a volunteer force to help Customs and Border “This is like the surge during the Obama administration, when they put out calls for volunteers ,” said the official. “The volunteer force is doing whatever needs to be done. Last time, it was mostly not interacting with migrants directly, but some people did things like help run names; others ran errands

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Donations come from corporations, individuals and even governments. Some give meals they’ve prepared themselves, others packaged goods or cash. Rice in survival packages recently distributed in the slums near Bangkok’s main commercial port facilities was paid for through Australian Aid; apples were donated by the New Zealand-Thai Chamber of Commerce.

When hospitals became so overcrowded that COVID-19 patients couldn’t get admitted, volunteer doctors and others brought oxygen to their homes, hoping to keep them alive long enough for an ICU bed to become free.

Myanmar migrant workers live their daily lives at a construction camp in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) © Provided by Associated Press Myanmar migrant workers live their daily lives at a construction camp in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

“We were mostly dealing with helping people get through this time with food supplies, necessities, but suddenly we were dealing with lives, people were dying in our arms — literally,” said Lange’s co-founder, Friso Poldervaart, a Dutchman who has lived in Thailand for more than a third of his 29 years.

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“That situation is luckily a little bit better now, more beds are free and the home isolation program of the government works better, but we’re still sending 20 to 30 people to the hospital every day, we’re still administering oxygen,” he said.

Thailand's new infections have ranged around 15,000 in recent days after peaking above 23,400 in mid-August, while deaths from COVID-19 have remained high, with 224 reported Sunday. The country has confirmed 1.2 million cases and more than 12,800 deaths in the pandemic.

Volunteer of Bangkok Community Help Foundation Inge Groot from the Netherlands prepare supplies for people living in a slum in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) © Provided by Associated Press Volunteer of Bangkok Community Help Foundation Inge Groot from the Netherlands prepare supplies for people living in a slum in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

The government hopes the country is now on its way out of this deadliest wave of the pandemic, which has accounted for 97% of Thailand’s total cases and more than 99% of its deaths.

A volunteer of Bangkok Community Help Foundation Wolf Dziambor from Canada prepares supplies for people living in a slum in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) © Provided by Associated Press A volunteer of Bangkok Community Help Foundation Wolf Dziambor from Canada prepares supplies for people living in a slum in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

After a much-criticized slow start to vaccinations, some 35% of the population has now had at least one shot and about 12% are fully vaccinated. In Bangkok, more than 90% have had one shot and more than 22% have had two.

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“In terms of the number of cases, we see that it’s still in the high numbers but the trend is getting better,” said Dr. Taweesap Siraprapasiri, an epidemiologist who is a senior adviser at the government’s Disease Control Department.

People wait for food supplies distributed from Bangkok Community Help Foundation in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) © Provided by Associated Press People wait for food supplies distributed from Bangkok Community Help Foundation in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Lockdown restrictions were relaxed last week, and many construction projects have been green-lighted to resume work, under tight supervision.

Taweesap said many of the construction workers have now received at least a first vaccine dose, and that many worksites have begun operating under what authorities have dubbed “bubble and seal” regulations — a “bubble” of workers are kept together and sealed off from outside contact to prevent COVID-19 from entering the site, or spreading beyond it.

People wait for food supplies distributed from Bangkok Community Help Foundation in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) © Provided by Associated Press People wait for food supplies distributed from Bangkok Community Help Foundation in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

“We are also applying this concept to other workplaces like factories,” he said.

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When the camps were first shut, a group of Bangkok residents formed the We Care For Ourselves group, saying it was immediately evident to them that many workers had been left in crisis situations.

Bangkok Community Help Foundation co-founder Friso Poldervaart, left, from the Netherlands distributes food supplies at a construction camp in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) © Provided by Associated Press Bangkok Community Help Foundation co-founder Friso Poldervaart, left, from the Netherlands distributes food supplies at a construction camp in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

They created an online platform to match needs in the camps with donations available to better target the help, sharing their information with Bangkok Community Help and other groups.

Even though things are improving, group member Yuwadee Assavasrisilp said many unregistered workers still aren’t vaccinated and as word has spread about their group, they’re beginning to hear more about ongoing needs in the city’s slums.

Bangkok Community Help Foundation co-founder Greg Lange, right, from Florida distributes food supplies to people living in a slum Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) © Provided by Associated Press Bangkok Community Help Foundation co-founder Greg Lange, right, from Florida distributes food supplies to people living in a slum Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

When people test positive, they’re forced to isolate in their own homes, which usually means the virus spreads to family members, she said. And many are so poor they sneak out of isolation to work just so they can feed their families.

“Without the volunteers, we would have seen many more people die because they could not access the government’s system in time," said 32-year-old Yuwadee. "The number of volunteers in Thailand has been surging — this shows the generosity of people in Thailand during the crisis — but at the same time, it reflects the government’s big failure in handling this pandemic.”

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A recent outbreak in Tun Nye’s camp, housing a 112-person crew building a mansion for an oil tycoon, meant that it had to stay shut longer than most but the worksite was approved for reopening last week. He and his wife both had the virus, but without serious symptoms and a negative test about a week ago means he can now get back on the job.

Bangkok Community Help Foundation volunteer Isabelle Dupont from France prepare supplies for people living in a slum in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit) © Provided by Associated Press Bangkok Community Help Foundation volunteer Isabelle Dupont from France prepare supplies for people living in a slum in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug. 31, 2021. In Thailand’s worst coronavirus surge yet, lockdown measures have reduced what little Bangkok’s have-nots had to zero. Their plight has given rise to volunteer groups working to ensure the poorest survive. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

“Everyone’s looking forward to it,” he said, his smile broad enough to be visible through his surgical mask. “We’ve been without an income for so long.”

For the volunteer groups, it’s just another phase of a long pandemic.

Bangkok Community Help, in conjunction with the local government, last week opened a 52-bed isolation center in a primary school, unused due to the pandemic. And over the weekend volunteers comprehensively tested an entire neighborhood to get better data on infection rates.

“We don’t stop," said Poldervaart. “We just adapt.”

___

Associated Press journalists Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul and Tassanee Vejpongsa contributed to this report.

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