August 31, 2021
Since January of 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has spread across the world. The situation in Thailand was very stable starting last summer--with a minor outbreak in December-- all the way through the early part of 2021. Unfortunately, a fierce wave has hit Thailand in April, but we are hopeful that things will improve soon. Meanwhile, many places around the world, including several of the countries where our AIT students, faculty, and staff come from, are still heavily affected.
AIT took action very early one year ago to make sure the campus is safe. We formed the AIT Coronavirus Task Force at the end of January 2020 to monitor the crisis, both in general and specifically on how it affects the institute. The Task Force has been devising policies, measures and advice, and has kept the AIT community informed through a dedicated Intranet column—with links to the Thai Government public health websites—and through frequent emails. Following the declaration of National Emergency by the Thai government last Spring, contingency operational plans were put in place, strict measures were imposed on AIT campus, and donated masks were issued to the entire AIT community.
On March 18, 2020, AIT officially closed, following the policy announced by the Thai Government, and all face-to-face classes were cancelled for the rest of that Spring Semester to move to interactive instruction. About half of the 1400 students chose to remain at AIT, with the other half, including exchange students from around the world, going back to their home country or their home in Thailand. All students were able to learn via interactive online instruction. Final exams and theses defense were online also. Those who were scheduled to graduate during the summer have been able to do so. Unfortunately, the May 2020 Graduation Ceremony was cancelled—but a good number participated in the December 2020 graduation exercises.
On August 1, 2020, AIT resumed normal operation, and Fall Semester started on August 4, 2020. The COVID-19 Task Force continues to ensure that health is the No. 1 priority at AIT. Those overseas students who were not able to join us in residence on campus took classes online. AIT faculty and staff have worked very hard to ensure that our online education is running smoothly, with more innovative interactive instruction available in Hybrid Instruction mode in Smart Modified Classrooms. In addition, AIT’s staff and students are devising creative ways to involve online students in student life, so that they get a sense of AIT residential education. Therefore, with new technology and methodology, AIT “has not missed a beat”, and Graduation Ceremony took place on December 18, 2020.
On August 21, 2020, the Thai Government—which has been extremely helpful with facilitating the processing of the entry to Thailand of our overseas students, approved AIT as an official Organizational Quarantine (OQ) site, with Thammasat University Hospital as our medical partner. Our OQ operates with strict safety and health guidelines overseen by the Thai Government. On September 13, 2020, our first overseas students to take advantage of our AIT OQ arrived, and they are still steadily coming into our OQ. To date, we have almost 300students—including some new Fall semester overseas students—who have taken advantage of the AIT OQ facility. In late November, 2020, we even started to admit some Thammasat University overseas students into our OQ, and that has gone smoothly also. But AIT will always maintain strict vigilance on managing the OQ and ensuring that our students and our community are safe.
With the new wave currently gripping Thailand since April 2021, AIT once again imposed strict measures to keep the community safe, and classes ended successfully online at the end of April, 2021. The Graduation Ceremony unfortunately could not take place in-person, so an online video ceremony was held on May 28, with almost 200 students graduating.
AIT was included by the Thai Government in the vaccine campaign for education institutions, and after obtaining assistance from some other channels also, all of our faculty and continuing students and staff and families—whether Thai or Non-Thai—have been vaccinated, most with two doses, by the end of August, 2021. Contractors and concessionaires have been included also. We are encouraging new Fall Semester students to get vaccinations before they appear on campus. Unfortunately, positive cases started to occur in the Spring on campus—other than sadly two contractor deaths, all others have recovered. Containment remains very rigorous. We hope the current wave is peaking, and things will ease in a month or so. When that happens, AIT—which opened the Fall Semester online on August 9—will be ready for in-person classes. At that time, Hybrid Instruction will happen, to take into account the overseas students who will not have arrived in Thailand yet.