Naphalai's Diary: March 30-April 5
When something like the coronavirus hits, one’s usual response is: oh, it won’t happen to me. That was my initial reaction to news about the COVID-19 outbreak. During the New Year, we heard about the infections in China. Again, just like SARS? Nothing to worry about. Then on January 13, Thailand reported its first case, a Chinese from Wuhan. So what I thought, as I packed for a cruise sailing from Rome to Barcelona during the first week of February. I came back safe and sound and jumped back into my routine consisting of appearances at packed events and activities. By the end of that month Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, the US, Iran, Italy, Spain and France were also grappling with the health crisis as infection numbers continued to rise.
It was only on March 9 that I felt the coronavirus moving closer to me. That was when the owner of a restaurant at All Seasons Place tested positive. My son is the CFO of a company with its office at the same building. Then a few days later came the news about 11 guys who were at a bar at Thonglor who also came down with the virus. My house is at Thonglor and by this time I did begin to think that maybe the virus wasn’t quite that far away after all. But there were still many invitations to events in spite of some cancellations and I duly attended.
I didn’t start working from home until March 24 and by that time I was all ready for it. I didn’t want to tempt fate anymore than I already had. Just think, as infections were soaring I had been on a cruise ship, in Italy and Spain, some of the worst hotspots. I also found out that at a huge gathering at Royal Paragon Hall, two guests sitting three places away from me had just returned from hard-hit France. And a few days before I stopped going out, I was at the Mandarin Oriental where a waiter who served, thankfully not at my event but one the following day, was found to be infected.
No longer was the virus the problem of someone else far away. In fact, it was swirling around me and I could contract it very easily if I weren’t careful. It doesn’t discriminate—it could just as easily latch on to me, the delivery boy bringing my food or the billionaire in his penthouse condo. There was another scare last week: my son told me a staff member working on the same floor but in another section of his office came down with symptoms of COVID-19 and everyone was told to self-quarantine for 14 days. While that person was being tested it was sleepless nights for me, afraid that he could have infected some of his co-workers—like my son! Fortunately, the result came back negative. But it could have easily gone the other way and it got me thinking about how perilous our daily journey can be. That is why it is important to take precautions as, even though destiny may try to dictate your fate, you must take some control and not just wait for the worst to happen.
So last week I tried to stay home every day. Almost succeeded but for one day—we had a photoshoot and as it was one that I had set up, I had to stop by to make sure everything was OK. Since I was already out I took the opportunity to do some grocery shopping. I normally go to Big C Extra at Rama IV every Saturday to replenish food and household stocks and usually, the place is teeming with people. So this time it was strange to see far fewer souls walking around and no queues at the checkout counters—the shelves were well-stocked though, which was a big relief. What was even more bizarre were the cordoned-off areas for products that cannot be sold under government orders, such as things like electronic appliances, housewares, clothing and such, all of which were not available for sale. On the lower floor where there are usually restaurants and pop-up stores, these areas were closed and boarded up. The only bits open for business were the banks, drug stores and the food court, the latter of which had its tables and chairs removed and was only available for takeaway services.
A whole new world has taken over, one which I hope will not persist for too long. It can’t as people need to get back to work soon otherwise the frail economy will find it that much harder and take that much longer to get back on its feet. In the meantime though, we need to cooperate and help in this fight against the virus. It is only through the sacrifices of each and everyone of us that we can hope to prevail. So please, show your love for each other by staying away. As I'll be doing the same for probably weeks, Naphalai's Diary will be taking a break until the situation gets better and we're all able to go out and party once more.
Previously: Naphalai's Diary: March 23-29