Taxi driver Supawadee stuck it out during Pattaya’s four-month shutdown last spring. She’s not sticking around for the second one.
Her savings gone and uncertain how long the new shutdown will last, Supawadee said she’s leaving Pattaya for hometown Buriram, maybe forever. She’s considering going back to farming.
The taxi driver’s dilemma is one the majority of Pattaya is facing as an awful 2020 turns to a just-as-awful start to 2021. Thais thought they had beaten Covid-19, even as the pandemic ravaged nearly every other country in the world and boiled right on the kingdom’s northern border.
Doctors kept telling the public a second wave was possible, but few believed it, letting mask use drop to under 50 percent nationwide, illegal migrants streaming back into the country to find work from virus-battered Myanmar and pandemic-weary Thais sneaking over borders and skipping quarantine, gamblers huddling in close quarters and bikers from around the country bringing the coronavirus to southern regions previously clear of it.
Once the match was lit, the entire country went up, with Chonburi, a tourist destination sharing a border with Rayong and its casino, among the hardest hit.
Chonburi Gov. Pakarathorn Thienchai, who ordered the shutdown on Wednesday, visited Banglamung District New Year’s Eve to see what he and the virus had wrought. Cruising through a dead city, he said the only way through was to again comply with and enforce the safety protocols that spared the city any infections for 243 days: universal mask use, rigid social distancing, and vigilant temperature screenings and handwashing.