FROM BUKIDNON TO THE WORLD: Health risks among OFWs in Thailand

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CHON BURI, Thailand (BukidnonNews.Net/ 10 February 2020)—While the Kingdom of Thailand has long been combating its war against air pollution known as the PM 2.5, another problem has been added as a number of cases on the recently widespread 2019-nCov has been confirmed in the country. It has put to risk the health of not only millions of Thai people but also thousands of Filipinos and other foreign nationals working here.

Fine particulate matter PM 2.5 refers to tiny particles in the air coming from various sources such as power plants, wood burning, forest fires, and vehicles. Exposure to such particles can cause health problems such as heart or lung disease, especially among children and old adults.

Bangkok Metropolitan and even its outskirt districts are on high alert as PM 2.5 level is rising. This happened already last year but the situation is just getting worse. Air Visual, a popular app monitoring pollution, indicates that the air pollution in Bangkok has reached to the value of 179 in the Air Quality Index which is classified as unhealthy and will increase harmful effects and aggravation to the heart and lungs among general public.

The Thai government has taken actions such as promoting cleaner biodiesel, deploying police and military to inspect factories and incinerators, temporarily closing some schools in affected area and banning crop burning during January and February. However, these measures are not enough. These solutions won’t last long. The Filipino workers along with the Thai citizens have no choice but to take immediate actions to protect themselves by wearing face masks when going outdoors.

As PM 2.5 level rises, face masks have been in high demand in affected areas. Face masks are the most common available tool in protecting the people from the hazardous dust particles. There have been a shortage of these masks last year and much more limited this year as a virus originated from Wuhan China spreads worldwide.

As of February 5, there has been 25 confirmed cases of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov) in Thailand. These cases include infected travelers from China and human-to-human transmission. This has been a public health emergency declared by the World Health Organization (WHO).

This has alarmed the Filipino workers, especially those who are working in crowded places which makes them more vulnerable in acquiring the said virus. OFWs coming back and going out of Thailand these days are also at risk as they pass through immigration check. They scan travelers’ fingers on the scanners without providing sanitizers.

Despite the large number of infected cases, the Thai government has not considered actions such as banning flights from China. All the public transportation, offices, malls, schools and tourist attractions are still open as usual and scheduled events that involve a massive crowd are still allowed.

Despite the health authorities’ campaign and strong surveillance on the public health, the government should have done more in preventing the spreading of virus.

The hazardous air particles have been suffocating already and exposing the people to places where they are vulnerable in contracting the virus is just too much to bear.

Since stores already ran out of face masks, the citizens are left on their own to protect themselves against toxic air and virus, alike. They are left with nothing but their own immune system and initiatives on taking extra care and preventive measures. 



Ms. Annie Babe Pascua is a licensed teacher from Valencia City. She finished Bachelor of Elementary Education in Bukidnon State University in 2017. She served as editor in chief of the university’s official student publication, the Collegianer in 2015. She is now teaching in a public school in Thailand. She contributes to BukidnonNews.Net’s From Bukidnon to the World. Reach her via editor.bukidnonnews@gmail.com.

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