Returnees’ close encounter with Covid-19 in Thailand

By Duc Hung   April 27, 2020 | 02:51 pm GMT+7
Employees of a bar in Thailand who returned to their native Vietnam were worried sick after colleagues were diagnosed with Covid-19.

Tue* left the central Nghe An Province for a job in the Thai capital five years ago. When the pandemic starting raging in that country, the 23-year-old and her husband returned to Vietnam on March 19. They traveled around 1,000 km overland through Thailand and Laos and reached the Cau Treo Border Gate in the central province of Ha Tinh, and were promptly quarantined.

A week later they learned to their consternation that everyone who had come into close contact with "Patient 146", a 17-year-old woman and Tue’s colleague who was also returning from Bangkok through Laos, would be isolated in private rooms at the Cau Treo Border Area General Hospital.

In the next few days three of that group tested positive, all Tue’s colleagues at the For You bar in Bangkok.

Tue says: "Whenever I read news about new infections, I was scared the next patient would be me or someone working at the bar."

Tue was worrking with four Covid-19 patients when they were in Thailand. Photo courtesy of Tue.

Tue was working with four Covid-19 patients when they were in Thailand. Photo courtesy of Tue.

She and her colleagues did not sleep during their first night in the private rooms. They worried, spent time talking to each other about their health and comforted those who were infected. Sometimes Tue would touch her forehead and be relieved to know her temperature was normal.

During 14 days of quarantine, she was tested four times. 

After the first two times, after she returned negative results, she was relieved. But then came news her friend, Tran Thi Tham, had become "Patient 210" despite twice testing negative. Tue’s anxiety returned.

"I was afraid of bad luck. My heart beat rapidly when I waited for the last two results. I was fortunate; I was not infected."

She had met thousands of people while at work before returning to Vietnam and so had reason to be anxious.

Tue and other 24 Vietnamese have worked at the bar in Bangkok since 2019. Situated on the fifth floor of a hotel run by a Chinese and a Thai, it attracts hundreds of guests every day.

The ladies rented rooms in its vicinity. Tue lived with her husband, earning around $1,080 per month.

The two finished their quarantine on April 13 and returned to Nghe An. They plan to return to Thailand.

The For You bar in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo courtesy of Tue.

The For You bar in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo courtesy of Tue.

Lan, 24, Tue’s colleague, was also apprehensive after the Ministry of Health confirmed "Patient 146" had the novel coronavirus infection. Her family and friends kept calling her to ask about her health status.

"I am fine, thank you all," she wrote on her social media account to put people at ease though she herself was not. Alone in the quarantine room, she would feel sorry she had talked to many people without knowing if she had the virus.

Four of her colleagues were diagnosed with Covid-19, but she had no idea what the source of their infection was. 

There were 25 Vietnamese in a chat group and they had agreed the "infection rate in Thailand was high."

On March 12 they were all happy to hear "Patient 146" was about to be discharged. A day later they were shocked to learn Nguyen Van Thanh, 26, had tested positive on his last day of quarantine, becoming "Patient 265".

Quarantine zone at Cau Treo Border Area General Hospital. Photo by VnExpresss/Gia Han.

Quarantine zone at Cau Treo Border Area General Hospital. Photo by VnExpresss/Gia Han.

On April 18 Lan returned to her hometown after testing negative. 

She does not know what to do next. If she stays in Vietnam, she will get married and face a heavy financial burden. If she leaves again for Thailand, there would be risks and finding a husband would become more difficult.

As of Monday central Ha Tinh Province has four Covid-19 cases, all staff of the the For You bar in Bangkok. 

Three have been discharged.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

 
 
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