As scenes of full field hospitals with dozens of cots flood TikTok and other social media and many news articles have come in on the Thai Government building more and more field hospitals, many people have asked what will happen if I test positive for Covid-19? Can I self-isolate at home if I have no symptoms? Do I get a private room? Will I get to choose my own hospital?
We wanted to take the time to answer these questions. Keep in mind, the Covid-19 situation in Thailand is changing rapidly, sometimes even within an hour, but this information was correct as of press time. This guide, by the way, is primarily aimed at FOREIGN nationals and not Thai nationals, although the process is similar. It’s also important to note that this guide is a general guide but not all-encompassing. Some individual experiences may differ from the “general” process and policy described in the guide so don’t be surprised that if you test positive your experience is slightly different.
First, you can see here on the Thai Government’s plan on self-isolation. Hint: It isn’t allowed-sort of. Keep reading. We also wrote an editorial on why it should be considered to happen that you can read here.
The following information is based on reports from both the Ministry of Public Health as well as public reports posted by people who have gone through the current process after testing positive for Covid-19.
There are generally a few ways one will go about getting a Covid-19 test. Currently, because of the recent outbreaks and tests going to those who are on timelines or contact traced, many hospitals are not giving tests to people with no symptoms and no history of being in contact or at a place with a Covid-19 positive test. Some provinces have even suggested that you self-quarantine if you have no symptoms but were at a place where a Covid-19 positive person went. (If you were a low-risk contact.)
If you are considered a high-risk contact or a close contact and are identified by a positive Covid-19 patient you will generally be called in for a test. You will be asked to self-isolate before and after the test while waiting for results which can take usually a day although there have been mixed reports on how long it can take depending on backlog. Unfortunately, there have been reports of people, including those staying at condos, who have not self-isolated while waiting for results.
If you notice you went somewhere that appears on a timeline but are not contact traced or considered to be a low-risk contact, you can go in for a free Covid-19 test at wherever the local health department is conducting tests, including if you are a foreigner. (You can also choose not to go in, but are supposed to self-isolate and/or monitor your health for symptoms of Covid-19) These notices are posted on local health department pages, which are usually in Thai. We have been translating them to English but if you are outside of Chonburi province you may have to check with your local health department. You will also be asked to self-isolate while waiting for results. Finally, there is proactive testing which is when mobile Covid-19 vans visit places that are considered high-risk, like factories, migrant worker’s camps, or entertainment districts, and set up to invite anyone who works or lives there for a free test. As before, you will be asked to self-isolate while waiting for results.
Once your test results come in you will get a phone call if you are positive. Negative people have reported they get a simple text message in some cases. At this point, generally speaking, an ambulance will pick you up to take you to a hospital for initial tests and to gather further information. We say generally because as this current round of infections increases in cases there are also reports of people being allowed to take their own transportation, although they are encouraged NOT to take public transportation.
You will then go through a health checkup with authorities and for foreigners will need to clarify your form of payment/insurance/etc. If you have a work permit and were working Thai Social Security will assist in covering any cost for Covid-19 treatment. (Note: It may not if you are a director of a company, you will need to check this). There have been mixed reports of foreigners having to pay for their treatment, but for the most part, reports say they have had to. Having Covid-19 insurance currently is VERY important. Migrant workers and Thai nationals get free treatment.
After this processing, you will be assigned a place to stay based on your condition if you show symptoms, your age, prior health conditions, and other factors. Importantly, going back to our self-isolation statements earlier, you cannot stay at home if mild or asymptomatic for your entire period of quarantine/monitoring, BUT, you might be told to go home and self-isolate, with medical checks from health volunteers who are also making sure you are not going anywhere, for up to several days until a bed or room becomes available for you in the area, depending on where you are. This depends a lot on your location and the severity of your condition. If you have the money or the right insurance, you may be able to choose your own hospital, however, due to the rising number of cases and full rooms due to the policy that everyone positive must get quarantined under medical attention, this isn’t guaranteed.
Thailand authorities have said several times, including today, there are no plans to allow overall self-isolation or self-quarantine for mild or asymptomatic cases at this time, thus all the building of more field hospitals. They claim this is for the ability to better monitor patient’s health during their stay as well as to enforce isolation.
So far, foreigners have GENERALLY been sent to either a hospital room or Hospitel (This is a quarantine hotel that is usually used to house people coming back from overseas but is being used for the recent infections as well.) These have private rooms and many have decent facilities. You will have daily basic medical tests depending on if you show symptoms or not. If you are asymptomatic you are given Vitamin C, according to multiple reports.
There is, however, a chance you could get sent to a field hospital, especially if money is tight(Note, if you have moderate symptoms or more you will go to a hospital, field hospitals are for mild or asymptomatic people, which according to the Ministry of Public Health is the majority of the current cases in Thailand.) These are the large dorm-style rooms with up to dozens of people on bunks. So far, it mostly appears to be Thai nationals and migrant workers sent to these places but it cannot be entirely ruled out that foreigners would not be sent there if private hospitals or hospitals had no beds or the foreign national had limited insurance or funds.
The conditions of field hospitals can vary widely, although most have wi-fi. Depending on a few different circumstances you could see yourself spending between 7-14 days in these hospitals, which also takes into account if you spent any time self-isolating at home waiting for a room. Many have limited bathrooms and will be shared with many other people.
You are suggested to bring toiletries, a power bar/surge protector, a pillow and blanket (and possibly even a mattress), snacks, sets of underwear (most hospitals are providing you with a hospital uniform), an eye mask to protect against bright lights on throughout various hours of the day, earplugs, and other personal items. Some field hospitals allow food delivery, but some do not and as staff needs to wear full personal protective equipment to enter the hospital wards they cannot get in easily whenever you want a pizza or a Pepsi, so bringing your own supplies would be a must. Portable hot pots are even allowed at some of the hospitals! Laptops, etc, are allowed.
Some more information on the field hospitals, in Thai, can be found here. In Chonburi, there is a field hospital set up at the Sattahip Naval Base, although we also have many “Hospitels” due to the number of hotels in the area, so it is entirely possible one may never have to see a field hospital in the Pattaya area.
Finally, the best way to avoid potentially testing positive and having to go through this process would be to limit your contacts during the current period of time and follow Covid-19 health precautions according to Chonburi Public Health Officials.
This is all correct as of press time, but once again can change rapidly and is designed only as a general guide and not the definitive answer to everything involving testing for Covid-19 in Thailand.