Army of volunteers fight Thailand's COVID-19 battle

Monk Phrompong Kaino works tirelessly to provide free COVID-19 tests for vulnerable people in high-risk Bangkok communities.

His efforts are part of a project organized by his temple that has reached over 2,000 people in just over a month.

He is one of thousands of ordinary people who have pitched in to help Thailand out of its worst coronavirus crisis to date.

One which has strained hospitals and stretched health services in the capital.

"Due to the country's current situation, medical teams cannot meet the demand of people. As a monk and temple, we want to help because the community and temple have lived together for a long time."

One in five of those tested by the project were positive for COVID-19, and were offered care at the holy site in community isolation, or found hospital beds.

Thailand is set to pass 1 million coronavirus cases this week, and it hit a record number on Tuesday (August 17).

Vaccination rates are low due to supply shortages.

Temples are inundated with bodies to cremate.

Pairuch Sudtoop volunteers for a foundation that has offered free undertaking and cremation services for hundreds of people.

"The nation is in crisis now, I've never seen Thais suffer this much. Some people may not be able to feel it from only watching the news, but to me, as the last person at the gate between the human world and the afterlife, it's hard to control our emotions, to not be sad."

The government has set up hotlines for infected people to call for help.

But it has been called out for failing to cope with the surge in demand.

The situation has forced volunteers to pick up the slack.

A group of aerospace engineers has created a platform to connect volunteers with infected people who need help, tracking their locations and waiting times.

Wasanchai Vongsantivanich is one of the program's developers.

"...you can see the situation is pretty bad. The red shows the flags, that, people ask for help. So if you want to click in any red, you see what kind of help that they need. For example, in this case, there is a sick patient, needs oxygen and medicine, something like that."

Some 9,000 volunteers signed up in the program's first three weeks.

They didn't belong to specific aid groups or organizations - just individual people wanting to help.

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