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Sabtu, 29 Mei 2021

How a Facebook video recorded by a dying gamer helped expose flaws in Thailand's fight against COVID-19 - ABC News

The brother of a well-known video gamer who died of COVID-19 in Thailand is suing the country's Prime Minister after claiming his sibling's inability to get tested in time led to his death.

Kunlasub Watthanaphol, who was known by his nickname 'Up', died on April 23 as the south-east Asian nation's third coronavirus wave was taking hold.

His older brother, Kunlachet Watthanaphol, has filed a lawsuit in Thailand’s Administrative Court, naming Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration and others, for failing to respond to Up’s pleas for help fast enough.

The e-sports competitor wrote a Facebook post on April 17 saying he was quarantining at home, because he was feeling sick with COVID-19 symptoms after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive.

The 34-year-old diabetic said he tried to call the government's COVID-19 hotlines to book a test but all the numbers were busy or could not offer immediate assistance.

Up added that hospitals he phoned said they had used up their testing quotas already or could not help him until he had done a test.

Up 'couldn't reach hospitals or they wouldn't accept' him

On April 20, as Up's symptoms worsened, he put his phone in selfie mode and recorded an emotional, live video on Facebook describing his plight.

A man wearing glasses looks at computer screen while people work in the background behind him.
Kunlasub Watthanaphol said in a live stream on Facebook on April 20 that he had symptoms of COVID-19.(

Supplied

)

"I don't have hope but I'm asking if anyone can help. My friends, any of you, please help me."

Up then described his symptoms and how he was feeling.

"I am holding my cough and have a sore throat and fever," he said.

"From being a strong man, I now feel like dying."

Even if he could book in for a test, Up had no transport to get to a testing site and no health insurance to cover the cost of an ambulance – problems common to many of Thailand's low-income earners.

He was also feeling too weak to try to walk to a testing location.

"Do you know what shocked me? A state officer told me, 'get public transport to do the test,'"' Up said in the live video.

"Shit, I'm trying to avoid spreading the virus and you told me to spread it. I am shocked."

After the video was watched and shared widely on social media, a Bangkok hospital admitted Up and a friend drove him there in the back of a truck.

The infection had spread to the video gamer's lungs and he died two days later.

Thailand's COVID-19 success dashed by third wave

Thailand was a coronavirus success story for most of last year, recording just under 7,000 cases and only 60 deaths as 2020 drew to a close.

There was an outbreak over Christmas linked to a seafood market south-west of Bangkok, which resulted in another 29,000 cases and 34 deaths in the new year.

By February, life in Thailand was returning to normal, but things began to change in April after the highly contagious UK variant emerged in Bangkok's infamous nightclub district.

Infections quickly spread nation-wide later that month during the country's Songkran Festival, as people returned to their family homes to celebrate the Thai New Year.

Traditional water throwing was banned for the second year in a row, but large family gatherings were still allowed.

Since April 1, the country has reported more than 120,000 COVID-19 cases and almost 900 deaths.

Customer wearing a protective mask in Bangkok
Bangkok authorities have already ordered the closing of more than 30 types of businesses and services including cinemas, parks, zoos, bars, pools and massage parlors.(

AP: Sakchai Lalit

)

Health authorities say there are currently around 46,000 people with the coronavirus, including 400 on ventilators.

In the weeks that followed the April outbreak, Thai media reported that many people, especially those in Bangkok, complained about having difficulty arranging COVID-19 tests as the health system started to become overwhelmed.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered coronavirus hotlines to increase their capacity, after reportedly asking a member of his staff to phone one to see what would happen.

"I do not find fault with anyone but no-one picked up the calls. What happened? Go fix it," Mr Prayuth said at the time.

The government also increased hospital bed capacity by using hotel quarantine rooms known as 'hospitels' and building field hospitals for asymptomatic patients or those with less serious symptoms.

There have been concerns about bed shortages as case numbers climb, because every person who tests positive must be admitted into a medical facility even if they are asymptomatic.

The government has consistently sought to reassure the public it has more than enough beds.

Brother turns attention to helping others

As for Kunlachet, he hopes his lawsuit — which is seeking 4.53 million baht ($186,000) — will lead to the improvement of official communications during the pandemic.

He said he does not want to assign blame or criticism, but is seeking compensation for his mother, because Up gave her a portion of his monthly earnings and would have continued to do so.

"I understand there were many cases for the government to handle and it was a sudden outbreak, but they needed to provide clear details of what people should do," Kunlachet told the ABC.

"When [Up] called for help they could not help, they made people wait, and the outbreak happened during that waiting.

"This was the mistake which led us to sue the government."

The ABC has asked the Thai government for comment regarding the lawsuit.

At the same time as taking legal action, Kunlachet is determined to prevent other families experiencing the same pain.

He has helped set up a shuttle service called 'Zendai' in the Thai capital, with fully sanitised vehicles and drivers dressed from head to toe in protective clothing.

A person dressed in a white protective suit and wearing a mask and hair protection stands in front of a white van.
A shuttle service called 'Zendai' has been set up in the Thai capital to help transport COVID-19 patients to hospital.(

Facebook: Zendai

)

"The main mission is sending a vehicle to pick up COVID-19-infected people so they don't have to take a taxi to avoid the virus spreading, and to get them to hospital in time," Kunlachet said.

In Zendai's first month, its 30 volunteers have already helped more than 1,000 people.

"Losing my brother is a big loss for me so I think about other people in society," Kunlachet said.

"If you have symptoms of COVID, or suspect you have COVID, or had close contact with high-risk people … you can call us, we are willing to go and help you."

Zendai volunteers have also been feeding people's dogs and cats while they are in hospital.

Restrictions in place in Bangkok as infections remain high

Thailand's daily case numbers have been hovering around the 2,000 mark for weeks, with the largest clusters in crowded communities such as prisons, slums, and construction camps.

Authorities have imposed many restrictions on the wider community, with Bangkok residents in so-called dark red zones living with some of the strictest rules.

Schools, entertainment venues, bars, cinemas, gyms, pools, and parks are closed, while people are urged to work from home.

A group of people in head to toe personal protective equipment helf lift a person on a stretcher.
Thai volunteer group Zendai help to transport people to get tested for COVID-19 or take them to hospital.(

Facebook: Zendai

)

Shopping centres and restaurants are open with reduced hours, but restaurants are only allowed to operate at 25 per cent capacity and alcohol service is banned.

Masks are mandatory in all inside and outside locations.

After a slow start, vaccinations are underway for health care workers, vulnerable groups, and people who work in Thailand's aviation and tourism industries.

About 2 million people have received their first dose and 1 million have received both doses.

The widespread vaccine rollout is due to begin on June 7, but there is increasing confusion about how various groups in the community can register for their jab.

The government is still acquiring the right amount of doses for Thailand's 66 million people, but says it hopes to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population by the end of the year.

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2021-05-29 18:59:53Z
CAIiEBiUSKkilCHfDfnK87cS9g8qFggEKg4IACoGCAow3vI9MPeaCDDciw4

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