Vaccine brings hope to one of the first Covid patients outside China

Bangkok, Mar 11 (efe-epa).- Thongsuk Thongrat, a Thai taxi driver who may have been the first person to contract Covid-19 outside China in January 2020, is eagerly awaiting the arrival of a vaccine to overcome the fear of the virus and return to normalcy.

“I am sure of wanting to get vaccinated although I still don’t know when. I know that I can get re-infected with another variant of the virus even after overcoming the disease. Getting vaccinated will help me return to normal life,” 51-year-old Thongrat told EFE in an interview.

The taxi driver got infected in late January last year, at a time when the World Health Organization had only registered four local transmissions of Covid-19 outside China: his, another in Japan and two in South Korea.

With 20 years of experience driving passengers, Thongrat wants the pandemic to end so that tourists return to Thailand and he can go back to his life of the time before the Coronavirus paralyzed the world and borders were closed.

“The number of passengers has dropped drastically, and this has had a major impact on my income, because the majority of my clients were foreign tourists,” said Thongrat, who lives on the outskirts of Bangkok in the Pathum Thani province with his wife and three children.

It was a Chinese tourist who passed the infection to the driver, and Thongrat remembers it vividly.

“I remember that a Chinese woman sneezed beside me while I was showing photos of tourist places to her.”

The first positive case of the new coronavirus outside China was detected in Thailand on Jan. 13, 2020 in a tourist who had arrived from Wuhan five days earlier.

Days later, Thongrat developed high fever, throat ache and persistent cough, which did not improve with flu medicine.

After being referred to a second hospital and undergoing relevant tests, he was informed that he had got what was called the “Wuhan pneumonia” at the time.

“I got really scared, I thought I was going to die in a few days and wondered why this was happening to me,” Thongrat told EFE.

“I was worried that who will take care of my family if I died, and was also afraid of having passed the disease to them. I was depressed and scared.”

However, the taxi driver recovered after spending 10 days at the hospital and then completed a 20-day quarantine at home – although the authorities required only two weeks in isolation – to ensure he was cured and could not infect others.

Since then, Thongrat has donated plasma seven times to help save the lives of other patients fighting the disease and said he feels stronger each time after doing it.

He has not lowered his guard more than a year later and continues to take extreme precaution.

“I spray my taxi with disinfectant every day, offer free hydroalcoholic gel and masks to passengers, and when they leave the car I open the windows to ventilate,” he said. EFE-EPA


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