Quarantined By The Government In Thailand
My Thai mum in law is sick.
According to my wife, she has TB.
This in itself made my ears prick up because it was only 2 years ago that my Thai father in law died from TB and so I thought, “Oh hello…”
So naturally I put on my best half interested concerned face and listened to what my wife had to say when she came to me one evening asking me if I wouldn’t mind so awfully if she returned to Thailand to take care of her mum.
Now for those of us that have been married to a Thai for a while, we come to recognise certain tones and this was definitely one of those polite ways of telling us that she has already made her mind up and that she wants us to support her decision. Now normally this would not be an issue because after 15 years of marriage, I have come to accept that the burden (cough, sorry I meant expectation) from Thai parents towards their children after brain washing (educating) them from an early age to take care of their parents is very strong; it is just one of those things you come to accept and one of those fights you simply do not wish to have with your other half because you will lose one way or another (eventually).
So having long accepted over the years that in the Thai inner circle of things you come after the chickens, we had a conversation which went something like this:
Her: “My mum has TB, I want to go back to Thailand to take care of her before she dies.”
Me: “Oh! Sorry to hear that, what makes you think she will die though? What have the doctors said?”
Her: “Well my dad died of TB and I am really worried she will too.”
Me: “Fair enough but if I recall, your dad died because he did the usual man thing and left it too late to go to the doctors, by which time it was too far gone. Your mum isn’t in the same position….”
Her: “I know but look at this photo… she is really sick!”
The wife then proceeds to shove her phone in my face which showed a photo of her mum, which to be fair, revealed that she had transformed from her usually plump self to someone now significantly so thin that she would give those from a WWII prisoner of war camp a run for their money.
Me: “Yikes! Blimey she does look a lot slimmer, perhaps I should go on the same diet eh?” as I look down at my tummy which has started to grow since we started the lock down some 12 weeks or so ago.
My glib comment however was clearly not lost on my wife who after hearing this started looking with interest at my 300-year-old Katana on the wall with a strange glint in her eye…
Her: <SIGH> “Yes, she is refusing to eat because she cannot taste the food anymore, and just drinks a carton of milk a day as that is the only thing she can have without vomiting. MY mum has also said that she just wants to die and not be a burden on anyone. So I need to go there because she is my best friend, my mum and, well, I only have one mum…”
My initial thoughts were one of a drama queen trying it on… (her mum, not my wife) but I suppressed my immediate feelings and lent her my ear for the next 10 minutes instead. I wished I hadn’t.
After listening to her unnecessary emotional thickening of the layers with me struggling to not show my slightly ‘I am already beaten half-interested’ face to her, I decided to kill it with that usual Thai classic line of “up to you…”
I knew already where this was heading. She was going back to Thailand anyway regardless of what I said or did so why continue the drama.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not being heartless and I don’t have ice running through my veins (even though my wife accused me of this during her 10-minute bleat, whine, explanation) but in my defence I have been here before. Her mum has cried wolf a few times in the past and in my mind she is doing it again, but what could I possibly say that a Thai woman would ever listen to in this respect. I tried anyway:
I feebly explained to the wife that we are in the middle of a pandemic; that she has two kids, she needs to be here for them and that she is putting herself, me and her family at unnecessary risk. She could get Covid 19 or get TB, bring it back and inadvertently kill me instead. The latter was of no concern to her mind as I am sure she would be delighted. Anyway, after talking to what may as well have been the wall for a few minutes, I simply said: “OK, I will support your decision whichever way you go…” and that was it. In her head she had the green light from me.
Within a few minutes, she was on the phone and arranging it all.
Now in the UK, the Thai embassy (god love ’em…) have come up with what can be best described as the usual Thai paper chase and hoops to jump through before you can go back to the Kingdom.
She has to attend the Thai embassy in London. She has to see a Thai doctor (a British one won’t do). She has to have a temperature check, provide a written explanation of why she needs to travel and then get herself on a waiting list for the once a week flight via EVA Air back to Thailand. The seats are limited to 250 per flight despite the capacity being almost double this number. The flight leaves every Saturday evening at 9:10 PM.
Only once having done all of this, would she be given a certificate sayings she was fit to travel from the Thai embassy. I should point out that the only people that were allowed to travel were Thai nationals. The rest of us can go and get stuffed.
Now upon hearing this, I tried my best to point out the folly of the trip because if anything this trip in to London at the height of the pandemic in my view would put her at more risk of getting Covid 19 than anything else I could think of. You see, we are 200 miles away from London. So she was expected to go all the way into London, jump into a taxi or tube train, get to the embassy at the other end, sit in a queue with other hopefuls, get tested, attend an interview and then make her way back home all in the same day. This also had to be done within 72 hours of the flight.
So after finishing my conversation with the wall once again, she went ahead to London the very next day. This was on the Friday morning.
It took her 3 hours to get there. She spent no more than 25 minutes at the embassy, and then she spent a further 3 hours coming back home. She bounced through the door early evening with a grin on her face. She had been given the “go ahead” and that was it, she was travelling the very next day back to Thailand.
As she packed her bags that night, we had another conversation. This time, I wanted to discuss scenarios with her:
- What if you catch Covid 19 or TB in Thailand, what’s the plan?
- If you end up in intensive care, what’s the plan, where will the funds come from?
- What happens if your mum lives, will you stay… if so for how long?
- What happens if your mum dies, what’s the plan?
- What has work said about you disappearing for an unknown amount of weeks, have you told them yet?
Well you get the gist. All reasonable, logical questions that any sensible person would have a plan for, but my wife, who at this stage was being ruled by her emotions rather than any rational logical reasoning, told me to wind my neck in or words to that effect and that I should leave her to it. Fair enough!
So there we have it, she was going no matter what with her head stuck clearly in the sand with her arse sticking in the air.
The next day came and went and she left me and the kids with a faint “bye” as she departed through the door. I should add that we have no idea if or when she will return. She didn’t even ask us to take her to the airport either and I was surprised by this and assumed she was getting the coach in instead. The next thing I see is that one of her friends rocked up to take her all the way back into London. So much for social distancing, I mused. I was really pissed off about it, of course I was, but the kids needed their father and so I just waved her off nonchalantly and closed the door and didn’t look back.
That was two weeks ago and I have heard very little from her since due to her being put into a mandatory 2 week quarantine upon arrival.
What little snippets I have are detailed below.
At Heathrow, they were all temperature-tested before getting on the flight. On the flight itself, they all assigned a row of seats to themselves to maintain social distancing on the plane. They all had to wear a mask for the entire journey and only were allowed to take on small hand luggage (i.e. handbags, small laptop bags…) and anyone trying to take on luggage, had it taken off them immediately. It was all sprayed down and put into the cargo hold. The Thai staff apparently were very matter of fact and military about it and there was little to no wriggle room allowed. On the plane they even had to ask permission to use the toilet and again, it was all very controlled.
At the other end, it was even more regimented. The wife said they were moved along like sheep with lines of staff moving them along every few feet. She reckons for every 5 passengers there was at least one member of staff assigned to keep an eye on their movements.
They were temperature tested as they departed the plane, tested again when they picked up their bags, and tested again at Immigration.
She then said they were all put onto government-controlled buses, and under police escort they were taken to a government-controlled hotel near the airport where they had to spend two weeks in mandatory quarantine. My wife tried to plead her case about her mum being sick but she was told, “This is about the whole of Thailand, it is for the benefit of everyone and there will be no exceptions. Get on the bus!” End of discussion.
Before getting on the bus, they were temperature-tested, and as they got off the bus they were tested again.
In the hotel, they were assigned individual rooms, tested again as they got into their room and given instructions, a free mobile phone to use and keep, along with a thermometer and an app that they had to log into twice a day to record their temperature. If they failed to record their temperature, they got a warning and then if it continued they were threatened with a fine of up to 2,000 baht per instance. The temperature had to be logged at 7 AM and 5 PM each day.
As you can imagine 250 people jet-lagged having to record their temperature at 7 AM local time for the first few days went down like a lead balloon, but kudos to them all, apparently they all complied. My wife was warned once for not doing it at 5 PM because she was a sleep but after that she stuck to it.
Throughout the quarantine period, they have not been allowed to leave their rooms. They receive a tray of food at 7 AM, 12 PM and 5 PM each day. It is all provided free of charge and is good quality and “yummy” according to my wife.
The only downside is that they cannot do any socialising other than via the quarantine group app and after two weeks in that hotel room, I am sure they are all suffering from cabin fever.
The quarantine ends tomorrow (Monday 15th) after which, and assuming they have passed their final temperature test, they will be free to travel to their final destinations. My wife has been told that the Thai government will be putting on a bus to ship her to her destination free of charge. This was more about keeping tabs on them as apparently she will be escorted to the front door of her mum’s house whereby she will be expected to report her movements for the duration each and every day that she is in country (using the free mobile phone provided) or face a fine and being put back into Quarantine. Multiply that by 250 Thai people a week and well one can only imagine the logistics involved. One thing is for sure, the Thais are not taking any risks.
Now bearing in mind that they are all on their final night in quarantine at the hotel, my wife sent me a message tonight with a few snippets;
The 250 Thais on her flight have all been cleared of Covid 19. No one has tested positive. That’s a positive!
4 Thais who came in via India on a separate flight however have been tested as being positive and so will be making a one way trip to the ICU and the cost and inconvenience that will bring. My wife, despite my fears, has dodged a bullet in this respect, but her trip isn’t over yet so who knows what could happen.
She also sent me two additional messages. One saying that two of the other girls who were on her flight who also came back to Thailand to also visit their sick parents, heard today that their respective parents had both died on Friday 12th). This is a real sickener for them because had they not been stuck in mandatory quarantine, they could have at least said their final goodbyes to their parents. For these girls, I feel nothing but sympathy. When my father in law died of TB two years ago, my wife was literally in the taxi 30 minutes away from seeing him after doing the epic journey from the UK, so she of all people knows how that feels.
The other message was that her temperature had climbed over the weekend to 38 degrees Celsius and that she has been told to bring it down or face being sent to hospital. This is freaking my wife out as she is scared that her mum will also die before she can get to see her. I will know by Monday if my wife has been given the all clear to travel or not. I told her to take loads of paracetamol and put the thermometer under a cold shower before doing the final temperature check. The risk of course is that they will check her again as she gets onto the final bus and shipped off to a destination unknown if she fails it.
I guess this submission will need to be continued in that respect.
For me the past two weeks has been spent with the kids. Work life balance at home is all about being locked down so it’s been fine for us all. The kids and dog miss the wife. I myself am glad of the silence in my left ear and the other ear is half cocked waiting for the message that says, “Honey, I am in hospital, do you have 30K baht you can send me…” or words to that effect.
In terms of my mother in law, the jury is out. She will either come bouncing back to good health during the time my wife spends with her (because I firmly believe that what she really needs is a kick up the arse) or she will pop her clogs and I will have to find a way of pulling my own foot out of my arse having first arrived there via my mouth.
As for my wife, I have no idea when or indeed if she plans on returning home. All I can say is, let’s see what the next few weeks bring….
The author of this article can be contacted at : [email protected]