Tourists receive a body temperature check on March 15, 2020, in Surat Thani province.

Fellow Thai citizens,

Our Thai society will be judged by how it handles the spread of coronavirus. The unprecedented situation and scale of the global pandemic is knocking on everyone’s door.

We must be kind, responsible and calm, not selfish and hysterical. The survival of any society depends on having more altruistic people than selfish ones.

The past few weeks have seen a few of us engaged in hoarding and profiteering from the scarcity of the sanitary masks while medical professionals at public hospitals are running out of these much-needed supplies. For ordinary Thais, many can no longer find or buy them and now many have to do with substitutes like home-made cotton masks which are much less effective – if at all.

Earlier this week, many undocumented Thai workers ended up at a quarantine facility with awful conditions. The tent colony set up in Buriram by the provincial administration resembles more of a virus incubator, as they had to sleep close to one another with no wall.

After one returnee posted a video on Facebook, showing the bare conditions where she and dozens others were being kept, many viewers were rightly upset and the governor quickly apologized. By Wednesday, they all but abandoned the mandatory quarantine that is only applied to the undocumented workers who returned from South Korea.

Then a hi-so celebrity posted photos of herself partying and attending numerous social gatherings after she returned from a high-risk country, yet the government doesn’t seem to care.

It was as if coronavirus, formally known as Covid-19, is only spreading from the working class and not from the rich and famous. Many blame the undocumented workers for the spread of virus when they don’t self-quarantine. If you are rich or famous, it’s ‘mai pen rai’ or no problem.

If these are only the government’s negligence and failures, then that might be palpable. Truth be told, the government is very confused among themselves. This week saw it backtracking not once but twice on whether some nationals are going to be allowed to enter the kingdom or not, causing great confusion to not just Thais but foreigners.

There’s no guarantee whether the government of Gen Prayut Chan-ocha will backtrack again or not in the coming days so if you are a foreigner and wondering whether you can still visit Thailand not, check the news several times a day.

On Thursday, we saw the Internal Trade Department needlessly suing a spokesman of the Customs Department for libel over alleged inflated figures of masks permitted to be exported by the former. The two agencies could have talked it out and focused their energies on more important tasks.

By night time of the same day, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul tweeted that Western tourists are “dirty” and that they do not shower, therefore they can spread the coronavirus to Thais. The tweet went viral and instead of fostering closer international solidarity in time of this unprecedented global crisis, the Thai government alienated more westerners.

Anutin should have known that Thailand’s survival as a society now depends on all of us being more responsible and caring. We should be prepared to set aside all the political differences and take whatever measures necessary to ensure good health for not just oneself but society.

As of Saturday, the total number of those infected have risen to 82, but some fear the real number is much higher.

There has been only one recorded death so far, however. This is very low compared to the average number of fatalities on Thai roads, which, according to the World Health Organization study in 2015, is 66. More recent stats suggest it is somewhere between 50 to 60 per day.

What’s more, only three per cent or so of those infected die. Thus, the chance of you or I surviving if infected is around 97 per cent. It can be said that many more people have become hysterical than infected so far.

The economic consequences of the virus such as tourism and the level of hysteria and depression caused by the virus is unprecedented as Thais fear a possible lockdown and even deeper economic repercussion in the days and weeks ahead.

We need to be cautious and vigilant especially when the government seems confused and at a loss. More and more countries are in lockdown – but let’s not shut the door to our hearts.

The government may be failing us, but let us not fail ourselves and our society. Let us show that kindness and calm can and shall prevail even at times of great confusion, fear, and hysteria.

I am counting on each and every one of you.