Pattaya adapts to ‘New Normal’ during COVID-19 pandemic

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Wearing face masks, washing your hands and having your temperature checked in public and when entering stores and other businesses is compulsory.

There was a time when one could walk along Pattaya and Jomtien Beach admiring holiday makers wearing colourful holiday attire.  From the conservative full length dresses and sarongs worn by the modest to the skimpiest of bikinis and swimming briefs worn by the brave, proudly showing off their attractive and not so attractive physical assets.



Then all of a sudden things changed sending the people rushing to cover themselves and hide indoors. The devious coronavirus began to spread around the world and Thailand stood in its path of destruction.

First, they found one case in Thailand, then ten, then a hundred, then one fatality. Thailand became worried. Something was just not right. Protective measures had to be quickly initiated. One of the first protective procedures was to screen incoming passengers from abroad by checking their body temperatures. But that procedure alone could not stop the spread of the coronavirus.

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The authorities soon realized that their worst fears had materialised, COVID-19 had already infiltrated Thailand and was slowly but surely spreading and infecting Thais and foreigners alike.

Stricter measures had to be enforced or the pandemic situation would get out of hand. People were strongly urged to protect themselves by practicing ‘social distancing’, washing their hands with soap or sanitizing gel often and wearing face masks.

Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome gets his temperature checked and lathered with hand gel before being allowed into city hall.
Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome wearing a face mask gets his temperature checked and lathered with hand gel before being allowed into city hall.

The government enforced stricter controls to block the spread of the virus by declaring the Emergency Decree, followed by a curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Many businesses were ordered to close all over the country and finally the Pattaya lockdown, whereby travellers were restricted entry into the city unless they worked or lived here or had a valid reason to enter the town.

Everyone passing through the checkpoints are checked, no exceptions.
Everyone passing through the checkpoints are checked, no exceptions.

The next stringent measure to protect the people was to order everyone to wear facemasks outdoors or when meeting with other people, including entering stores that are still open. This ruling sent people scrambling to pharmacies looking to buy facemasks. To their surprise and shock, they couldn’t buy one. There was a shortage. Unscrupulous people were buying up and hoarding them, selling them later at exorbitant prices. The scandal even hit on the national level when it was discovered that millions of face masks were discretely exported to other countries, when the dire need was here in our own country.



But Thais are quite innovative, so we started to design and sew our own facemasks made from fibre, cotton and muslin fabric. Some were plain colours but many were colourful with various designs. They were not for sale, but were made by benevolent people for distribution to anyone and everyone that needed one.

A volunteer at the Child Protection and Development Centre sews face masks for distribution to the public.

Most Thais and foreigners were cooperative and wore facemasks willingly, but many were stubborn and thought they were invincible and didn’t need to.

Not anymore. With time, almost everyone has begun to accept the fact that the coronavirus is real and deadly. They needed to protect not only themselves but also their families and everyone that they came into contact with. Everyone is encouraged to wear their facemasks at home too, even when together with people you know and live with.

A volunteer distributes colourful face masks to residents in rural communities.

We all know that physical distancing goes against human nature. We love to be close to each other. We need to touch and feel each other. But now, sadly we can only wave and say hello to our loved ones even if we live in the same house.

We pray that  the coronavirus will go away soon. Statistics show that the numbers of infections are reducing day by day. This positive progress will only continue to happen if we are steadfast and do everything that is necessary for the protection of ourselves and every person around us. Don’t think of it as being forced to obey the government’s orders, this is common sense. Your life and your loved ones’ lives depend on your actions.

It is good to see people strolling along the beach wearing face masks

Once the world comes back to the ‘old normal’ we can all begin to enjoy what we love most about Thais and Thailand. The kind and smiling people, the delicious food, the beautiful beaches, the ancient and intriguing culture, the loud parties and beer bars playing ear shattering music, exhilarating nightlife venues, speeding motorbikes with thundering exhaust pipes, tour buses causing traffic jams, baht buses stopping and parking wherever they wished, fake brand name goods sold on the pavements, garbage dumped all over the roads and sois, stray dogs threatening to bite anyone who walked by and everything else that was totally annoying to us before.

It will be a dream come true again.