Volunteers Aid COVID Ill in Stressed Thai Capital

BANGKOK (AP) -
Volunteers from the “Saimai Will Survive” group prepare an oxygen generator for victims with COVID-19 outside their home last Friday, in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo/Tassanee Vejpongsa)

They travel to the forgotten around the capital’s outlying neighborhoods, taking care of desperate people who can’t find a place in Thailand’s overburdened health care system or who are living in the streets.

They are ordinary Thais like Ekapob Laungprasert, who said he suddenly realized that overworked nurses and hospitals needed as much help as those sick from COVID-19 did. The businessman helped set up one of the volunteer groups helping those in need. Saimai Will Survive is named after the Bangkok neighborhood where he lives.

Because Thailand seeks to medically isolate anyone who tests positive, almost a quarter of a million people are now in field hospitals and hospitals. People with mild or no symptoms are now being allowed to self-isolate under remote observation, but space is still short at medical facilities.

With Thailand averaging about 14,000 new cases daily, 2,500 of them in Bangkok, thousands are left on their own.

Responding to calls from neighbors and others, Ekapob, his team and others like them risk their own health to bring care and supplies to the COVID-19 patients who would otherwise fall through the cracks.

They buy supplies with public donations and deliver medicine, food and oxygen. They also provide rapid virus tests and help secure hospital beds for people who become critically ill.

Such homespun heroes gain crucial time for both patients and a health-care system under severe strain.