Updates 31 May 2020: With new infection cases declining sharply over the last 2 months, the Thai government is relaxing on the lockdown. Muay Thai gyms will be opened from 1 June with restrictions: only 10 people allowed at each time with no pad and clinch training (only bag work and exercises). Still no word yet on when events are allowed to restart.
Updates 1 April 2020: Phuket is now officially in lock-down as the COVID-19 cases climb in the country, spreading outwards from the capital. Gyms are closed in the island city, closure expected to last the whole of April.
Updates 25 March 2020: All Bangkok gym closures are extended until 12 April, likewise for shopping malls, entertainment venues in Bangkok. More and more gyms around Thailand are closed. The country is imposing strict border control with many expats forced to leave after their visa expires.
The hottest topic of the moment all around the world has to be none other than the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
First detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the coronavirus has now spread to countries everywhere. According to the World Health Organization, at least 7176 people globally have died from COVID-19 and more than 180,000 infections have been confirmed in at least 140 countries (as of 18 March 2020).
No country and her citizens are safe in this worldwide pandemic. Businesses, international travels and even simple daily routines have all been impacted. Several countries including China, Italy, Malaysia, Belgium and increasingly more European countries have also implemented nationwide lock down as a hard-line strategy to limit the spread.
Updates on Thailand
If you plan on visiting Thailand, here’s what you need to know:
Thailand is the first country outside of China where the coronavirus was detected. With over 10 million visitors from China every year, the news came as no surprise. Just weeks ago, with the outbreak spreading to outside of Asia, Thailand reported a suspiciously low number of coronavirus cases. Many suspect that the government was under-reporting the numbers or that the cost of testing for the virus put off many potential carriers.
TV celebrity and Khongsittha boxing camp manager Matthew Deane, was tested positive for Covid-19 on March 6. He was in contact with many people at Lumpini Stadium on that faithful day including Muay Thai legend, Saenchai who has since gotten tested with results coming in negative. Now hundreds of new cases have been linked to both Lumpini and Rajadamnern stadiums including over 40 fighters.
A number of Muay Thai stadiums and promotions in Bangkok took the lead by suspending their events. Several gyms in the country also closed their doors to public as a precautionary measure. Then on 17 March, the Thai government approved and ordered the closures of all universities, public and private schools, boxing arenas, boxing gyms, cockfighting arenas theaters, bars and other entertainment venues in Metropolitan Bangkok.
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Basic Tips to Safeguard against COVID-19
Looking at the statistics, many of the coronavirus-related fatalities may be linked with old-age and patients with pre-existing conditions (e.g. cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease etc.). It is thus important for those who fall into these categories, and those who live with them, to take extra precautions against the virus.
Some countries like Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong have found relative success in slowing the spread of the coronavirus by bringing forward their experience in dealing with the deadly SARS outbreak 17 years ago. The respective governments have put in place a number of critical measures but part of the positive results should be credited to the respective citizens through hygiene care and adhering to social distancing practices.
By pervasive and aggressive education on tips to safeguard against the virus, people in these countries have contributed to impede the outbreak. New cases in these countries are often imported and the spread rapidly tracked and limited.
Here are some very useful tips to help you cope and minimize the probability of contracting the coronavirus illness:
Keep Your Hands Clean
This is almost a no-brainer but it bears repeating that with the current situation, it is of paramount importance to wash your hands regularly with soap for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizers also come highly recommended by health specialists as the high alcohol content (between 65-90%) helps to kill the virus.
I have tried around 7-8 different brands and highly recommend the Dettol travel-size hand sanitizer. They are odorless, feels gentle on the skin and Dettol is a highly reputable brand that I trust. I brought one on my recent trips to Turin, Italy (YOKKAO 45-46) and Manchester, UK (for YOKKAO 47-48) in the last few months, and came home safe and virus-free.
Avoid Touching Your Face
If you have no access to a tap and soap or hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face at all costs. The coronavirus is thought to spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes and then possibly be inhaled into the lungs. However, It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. So no touching faces.
Give your immunity the boost it needs during these hazardous times with sufficient sleep, drinking lots of water, adequate vitamin C intake and moderate exercise. Don’t stress or panic – staying fit, healthy and strong is key to combat the virus.
Practise Social Distancing
Like any other flu virus, not everyone who has contracted the virus is symptomatic. That is to say that a carrier of the coronavirus may not display any symptoms usually associated with the illness (e.g. dry cough, running nose etc.). To prevent contracting or spreading, the recommended etiquette is to practise social distancing. This means limiting physical contact to a minimum (or at all) and keeping a safe distance from other people.
Get Tested (If Necessary)
If you have come into contact with anyone who has tested positive for the coronavirus, you should immediately get yourself tested at the hospital. Similarly, if you have any flu-like symptoms such as coughing, running nose, sore throat or fever, it is best to quickly get tested. Any minute delayed is increased chance of spreading the virus. Remember to wear your mask when you visit the hospital.
Effects of COVID-19 Outbreak on Muay Thai Training
As highlighted above, the Thai government has ordered the closure of Muay Thai gyms in Bangkok with many gyms around the country following the lead. Gyms around the world have been divisive on suspending classes/activities but as the situation intensifies, more and more owners are choosing social responsibility over profits.
With the traffic of people and sharing of equipment, gyms have been identified as hotbeds for the coronavirus. This is due to the dampness and sweaty conditions of the environment. While many gyms have undertaken measues to double down on sanitizing the gym, there are also human risks as you never know if a trainer or gym-goer grunting away could be a super spreader. Activities such as sparring and clinching also increase the potential health risks due to the physical contact.
For those who are affected due to the closure of their gyms, there are other ways to stay active and continue training: Shadow boxing, strength training, running are some of the ways to keep fit during this period. There are also both paid and free online Muay Thai resources that you can reference such as Liam Harrison Training, Christoph Delp’s Muay Thai App, Sean Fagan’s Nak Muay Nation and many others.
It is a matter of time before the appropriate vaccination is developed and the virus is kept under control. In the mean time, the best approach to take at this point is to simply minimize social contact, stay healthy and maintain a positive mindset. Remember to support everyone around you as we all need that extra love.
I wish you great health, virus-free and the strength to weather through this period. Take care and chok dee!