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The Nightmare of Testing Positive

Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Today’s special newsletter is about the nightmare that falls upon you if you test positive on arrival in Thailand. This is what happened to Kirovs, a tourist who came to Thailand with his family. He is now in hospital and his family are in hotel quarantine. The second story is from James who is considered a close contact as he was in the same car from the airport as someone who tested positive. Neither of the people who tested positive have any symptoms and they are now desperately trying to find out if their insurance will cover the large hospital bill.

Story 1: Testing Positive
The first story is about a family of four who came to Thailand for a 13-day holiday. Kirovs, the father, tested positive and was sent to a hospital for ten days. The mother and the two children, aged two and four, are close contacts and so were told to stay in the quarantine hotel. He believes they will have to do another test on day 3 or 4 and if they test negative, then they might be able to go. But they would have to go without him as he is expecting to stay in hospital for at least ten days. He doesn’t have any symptoms and he is really hoping his insurance will cover the cost. He thinks it will cost him around 350,000 baht which is the hospital and quarantine hotel fees.
"A Family of Four's Nightmare"
We arrived in Bangkok early in the morning on 7th of November, did our RT-PCR tests at the hotel at around 10:00 a.m. and spent a day in our hotel room very excited about our upcoming adventures – I was searching for hotel deals for the next couple of days in Bangkok. As I wanted peace of mind, I had brought some ATK test kits in my luggage. I did a test for myself, and my wife did one, both were negative. So, we told our kids that this day will be tough, but the next ones will be great.
We went to bed early. At around 9:00 p.m. a phone call woke me up. At first, I understood that everything is alright, but it turned out that the hotel receptionist was only talking about my wife and my kids. She finished the sentence by saying my results detected Covid and we must go to the hospital in different cars.
Then there were a lot of questions from us and a lot of – I will call you backs from hotel management. During that night, they updated or changed the information every hour or so. Probably it was also a new thing for them, and they were forwarding my questions to the hospital.
As I was feeling very healthy, I was also afraid that the result is a false positive and I might get infected in the hospital. I did not understand – which hospital will they take me to, how much it is going to cost and what will happen with my family, when will they be allowed to leave the room? I made some desperate attempts to ask for a second test in the morning, but it was not an option.
That night was terrible, we could not sleep, kids woke up at 1:00 a.m. because of jet lag and we realised that not only our holiday was ruined, but the next days are going to be terrible for all of us and this experience might cost us much more than the hotels I was searching earlier that day. I wanted to hug my wife and kids to say sorry, but I am afraid to do it, because I’m covid positive.
Next morning, I got transferred to the hospital– in an ambulance, with sirens on. Only thing that I knew about this hospital was that it has 2.7 stars in Google reviews so I was afraid to go there. The nurse was very nice and friendly, she was the only English speaking person I met there that morning.
When I entered the hospital, I was hoping that somebody will check me and recognize that there are no threats to my health. They took my blood and left a catheter in my arm, measured my temperature and blood pressure. Later that day, another nurse came and took an x-ray of my chest.
Otherwise, they were mostly talking about my insurance and possible payments, and filling various hospital forms in Thai. I was shown 300,000 on a phone as medical expenses. I told them that I need to think about this and call my insurance company. Later I got presented another sheet of paper which shows that I must pay for my room and other daily services (written in Thai) 5,900 baht/day.
And then finally a doctor called me, that conversation was very hard to follow – as he did not speak English, but he was talking to somebody else (maybe somebody who did help with translation) for several minutes and then every 2 minutes he told me a couple of fast sentences in English. I mostly just tried to ask for some clarification and tried to reformulate my questions, but what I think he told me was that as I am in quarantine, he is not going to see me in person, but I must take antiviral pills because otherwise my lungs are in danger. These pills, also, will cost about 10,000- to 15,000 baht.
While I was writing this summary, a nice women came in who spoke good English, I got some clarification about why they want me to drink antiviral pills (because my weight is more than 90kg which is classified as risk category in Thailand) but I finally managed to arrange another RT-PCR test. I told them that I will be happy to pay for that. Not sure if it will give any improvements to my situation, but I had to try that.
Hospital staff is friendly, but overall felling is very depressing, with all the absence of information and smothering with bills and inability to meet family or go outside. Insurance is supposed to cover most of it, but I cannot feel sure about that until it is officially approved.
I cannot get away from the feeling that I let my children down by dragging them on this adventure, flying 11 hours just to get locked in a hotel room. I knew that I was taking a gamble when I chose to buy airplane tickets as soon as the Thailand reopening was announced. But I thought that we will play it safe and chances will be super small. We lost that bet.
Story 2: Tested Negative but is a Close Contact
This second story is by James. Shortly before midnight, the hotel texted him to give him his test results: “The covid test you are negative but you can’t leave here because your friend covid test result positive. You quarantine this here 14 day.” The reason they gave him was because they came to the hotel in the same car. This is his story.
"Two Companions Travelling Together"
I travelled from England on the 6th of November and arrived in Thailand at 12:40 p.m. on the 7th of November. My reason for travel is to be with my wife and I travelled with a friend who was due to go his own way to see his girlfriend. 
Upon arriving at the hotel, we both were tested at 2:30 p.m. and sent to our separate rooms. At midnight we both received a message. His said that he had tested positive and will be transferred to hospital, and mine said that mine is negative, but I’d need to stay in quarantine for 14 days.
No other information was given to us, no messages answered so we were just left waiting. At 7:00 p.m. on the 8th, the ambulance finally arrived, and he was transferred to hospital where he remains. He is still waiting for the doctor to come to see him and I’m just a sitting duck in my room where my hotel won’t even provide me with tea bags after asking for over 1 day. 
I don’t know whether I’m going to get another PCR test done or if I’m just expected to stay for the 14 days. None of us have any symptoms of Covid-19 and upon arriving at the hospital, my friend’s temperature was checked and is normal. 
It’s a strange situation to be in having travelled to Thailand multiple times during the pandemic with no previous issues. 
The Gamble of Going to Thailand
So, how much of a gamble is it to come to Thailand at this time? Well, if the statistics are anything to go by, you will have to be extremely unlucky to test positive. Particularly if you are fully vaccinated and coming in on the Test & go program. Between 1-8 November, out of the 15,763 people who landed at Survanabhumi airport to take part in Test & Go, only eleven people, or 0.07%, tested positive. Nationally for all airports and all programs including quarantine, 26 people out of 24,905 arrivals tested positive which is 0.10%. Of course, this doesn’t mentioned the number of people who are considered to be high risk close contacts. These could be people sitting next to an infected person on the flight or someone who shared the same hotel transfer vehicle.
The common theme of these two stories is the lack of communication about what is going and what will happen next. The Tourism Authority of Thailand is promoting Thailand as a wonderful and safe tourist destination. But once people arrive here and they face a situation such as this, then they are basically left to fend for themselves. The same happened when quarantine was changed from 14 days to 7 days. There was no communication at all about what would happen to people who arrived that day. Even the hotels were giving different stories. When you invite someone to be a guest in your country, the right thing to do is to inquire if they need any help if things go wrong.
In the case of Kirovs, he was told that his family will probably only need to quarantine for a further 3-4 days and then do another test. If they tested negative, then they could go. In James’s case, they told him he must quarantine for 14 days which I haven’t heard about before. Usually it is ten days quarantine and more recently you were given an option to test again so you can be released earlier. He said his hotel is not answering his questions about this. I know the odds are low of this happening to you, but it was at the back of my mind when I was flying into Thailand last week. I had to wait 28 hours before I got my test results.
That’s the end of this special newsletter. Thanks for subscribing and reading this far. I might have some more updates about the Thailand Pass in a few days as I will be going to the consular department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tomorrow for a meeting. Also, if I get any updates on these two stories I will let you know. Thanks.
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Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand @richardbarrow

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Samut Prakan, Thailand