The Faces of Covid-19 Response Volunteers

By late April, medical services and facilities in the city of Bangkok, which was the epicentre of the Covid-19 third wave, were reportedly overwhelmed by daily infection cases despite the fact that it was just the beginning of the surge.

In the eyes of young volunteers like those working for the newly set-up group called Zen Dai, this was partly due to the government lagged policy and paperwork-loaded response for dealing with the fast-spreading Delta variant from the UK.

The result? A number of Covid-19 patients unfortunately succumbed to the disease as they missed to get medical services and treatment in time. Among those was a young E-Sport player who had tried in vein to contact hospitals for help but to no avail until his condition got worse. He was eventually admitted to hospital but later died, the incident that struck one of the group’s founders, a politician-turned-lecturer Chris Potranandana, the most.

Chris, who was a co-founder of the now-defunct Future Forward Party, and some few colleagues of his, the player’s brother included, then decided to set up Zen Dai to plug the hole, becoming one of the very first Covid-19 response volunteer groups, whose work has helped contribute to the state’s healthcare system which deals with Covid-19, especially in the very first step of case referral; making an easy (accessible) call.

“There are some incidents to which people started to question that why some(rich) people or celebs got timely treatment, while several ordinary others did not. Up (an E-Sport player’s nickname) had called through hotline numbers several times in order to get his health condition diagnosed timely but no one picked up his calls. Or as his phone call was picked, he was then told to get to the hospital by himself. All these should not have happened,” Chris told the BBC Thai in an interview about his group last month, reflecting that these all were “manageable”.

Starting with an easy phone call, the group called for donations of phones to set up a call center. They then linked up cases to Covid-19 diagnosing facilities and helped refer those to hospitals.

Over 10 cases were made successful through 20 phones set up during the very first days of the group, Chris recalled.

From a few colleagues, more and more young faces have appeared and offered help. There are now over 80 of them, coming from all walks of life, ex-prisoners included, working day in and day out over the past few months, especially during the time when the state’s system was not quite well in place.

Over 2,000 Covid-19 patients have been rescued by the group and Zen Dai has expanded its work to support the Home Isolation program as well as the Comprehensive Covid-Response or CCRT in a number of communities in the city.

Recently, the group has come up with an idea to pass on the knowledge in regard to Covid-19 early response to communities and other groups in society including prisoners so that they can help take care each other. Aside from venturing around communities in Bangkok, the group also travels to other places including prisons to try out their latest idea.

These are their faces; Covid-19 response volunteers who have helped a number of Covid-19 patients with an easy (accessible) call and service.