Buddhist monks in Thailand have turned to do-it-yourself videos on YouTube to quickly make much-needed masks and face shields to protect themselves from the coronavirus. As the COVID-19 outbreak escalates in the Southeast Asian kingdom, Theravada monastics continue their daily routines with homemade personal protective equipment (PPE). Thailand reported 104 new confirmed cases on Thursday, raising the total number of confirmed infections there to 1,877 with 15 deaths as of this writing.
Monks from Matchantikaram Temple, located in Nonthaburi Province just north of Bangkok, were filmed as they went along their daily alms round. When asked about the new masks, the monks described how they were made: “We learned from YouTube and made them three days ago,” said Phra Maha Somkiat Yannasuttho. “I asked a parishioner to go out and buy transparent sheets, sponges, and rubber bands, then we stapled them all together.” (Coconuts Bangkok)
The monks can be seen in saffron masks that match their robes, along with homemade transparent face shields to protect their eyes and prevent droplets from passing to and from their entire faces.
“I wore a face mask and I could barely breathe,” said another monk. “Then I did more research and found that droplets can enter the eyes too, so I made the face shield.” (Coconuts Bangkok)
While the daily alms round, or pindacāra, remains a daily ritual for most monastics in Thailand, some in the country have suggested a change in tradition, given the global pandemic. “Would it cause drama if I suggested that they should avoid going out during these times? Whoever wants to offer alms should make it via a food delivery app already,” Anan Jaikhumkao wrote on Facebook. (Coconuts Bangkok)
Thailand announced a state of emergency beginning on 26 March, with broad lockdown measures put into place. The nation’s borders were closed to foreign visitors, social gatherings were banned, and non-essential businesses were ordered closed until the end of April.
“Thailand is at a turning point in the outbreak and the situation could get a lot worse,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said in a televised speech in Bangkok on 25 March. “It’s important that we impose stricter rules to reduce the spread.” (Bloomberg)
Further measures have since been put into place in the days since the prime minister’s speech, as infection rates have continued to rise. Thailand’s largest island, Phuket, was put on lockdown on Monday, with most transportation to and from the island halted. Only vehicles moving essential goods are currently exempted.
Effective today, 2 April, all of Bangkok’s shops will have to close from midnight until 5am, and all parks are to be closed completely until the end of the month, according to a Bangkok Metropolitan Administration announcement issued yesterday.
“Please understand that we need to reduce the gathering of people as much as possible. There will be regular assessments of all the closed venues. If scientific and medical evidence indicates that they are safe to reopen, we will consider it,” said BMA spokesman Pongsakorn Kwanmuang. (The Straits Times)
According to 2015 census data, 94.5 per cent of Thailand’s population practices Buddhism. Islam is the second largest religion, practiced predominantly in the south of the country, at 4.29 per cent. Christians make up just over 1 per cent of the populous. The kingdom has some 40,000 Buddhist temples with almost 300,000 Buddhist monks.
Thailand reports 104 new coronavirus cases, three new deaths (Reuters)
By the power of YouTube, Thai monks make DIY safety gear (Coconuts Bangkok)
Thailand to Impose Broad Lockdown to Fight Novel Coronavirus (Bloomberg)
Thailand’s Biggest Island on Lockdown to Contain Coronavirus (Bloomberg)
Coronavirus: Bangkok orders shop closures from midnight to 5am (The Straits Times)