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We have been Forced to take the Long way home

After spending months stranded abroad due to Covid-19 lockdowns, some foreign nationals with Thai work permits have finally managed to return.Shane Goodhew, an admissions manager at a drug rehabilitation centre in Chiang Mai, was one of them. He was actually in Australia for a one-week trip to celebrate his mother’s birthday in March, when Canberra requested Australian nationals overseas to return as the coronavirus situation was starting to escalate.

“At the time, it was a little bit scary because of the amount of [conflicting] information on the virus. I decided to follow [Canberra’s] directions,” he said.

So Mr Goodhew flew back to Thailand to pack his stuff and say goodbye to his girlfriend, before returning to Australia. “I thought it would only be one or two months before I get to return,” he said.

Unfortunately, the government suspended international flights in April to prevent the spread of Covid-19. It wasn’t until May 28 that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced re-entry procedures for foreign nationals who have work permits or who have been granted permission to work here.

They are required to obtain certificates of entry (COE) and other documents, including fit-to-fly certificates and health insurance. Upon arrival, they must undergo 14-day quarantine at their own expense.

Mr Goodhew said he contacted the Royal Thai Embassy in Canberra when the situation began to improve in May.

“They helped me a lot. I understood that their first priority was to repatriate Thai nationals. I was patient and waited for the right time. When it came, I asked and they sent me an email with all the information,” he said.

Unfortunately, he did not manage to return because the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand decided to ban international airlines from entering the country until July 1.

However, Mr Goodhew managed to get on a repatriation flight on July 19. He is now in alternative state quarantine (ASQ). A 15-night stay in ASQ costs between 30,000-104,000 baht, depending on the level of accommodation. It includes three meals per day and two Covid-19 tests.

“I was happy to meet the lady who helped me arrange my flight and I am grateful for what [the embassy staff] did for me,” he said. “Have faith in the process. Be kind and respectful. It will all work out.


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