By Mae Thiwari
September 13, 2021 --- It has been one year since the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) welcomed its first group of students to the first universtiy Organizational Quarantine (OQ) facility in Thailand on its campus. Here is a look into how AIT OQ has made it possible for students from around the world to study in Thailand to achieve their goals amidst the pandemic.
Three students from Pakistan were the first guests of AIT OQ, checking in on September 13, 2020. As of September 13, 2021, one year anniversary date of the OQ, there are 298 students across the globe who have resided in the safe and affordable quarantine facility on AIT campus.
As an international postgraduate institution, AIT annually welcomes almost 70% of its student body from countries outside of Thailand. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic worldwide forces travel restrictions and 14-day requirement to remain in place in many countries, including Thailand. There are three types of quarantine facilities available in the country: State Quarantine (SQ) for Thai nationals, Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) which are private hotels open to all nationals at cost, and Organizational Quarantine (OQ) which requires a medical partner. After a rigorous process, AIT received an approval from the Thai Ministry of Public Health to operate its OQ facility in late August 2020.
AIT has partnered with Thammasat University Hospital to provide testing and treatment for its students who are required to undergo quarantine, at its three special dormitory buildings safely barricaded as the OQ. Since its inception, a small number of students did test positive in the OQ, but they immediately received medical treatment and then fully recovered. Sadly, one OQ staff member passed away when she was infected by the coronavirus off-campus, and all the OQ students remember her and thank her.
Throughout the year, AIT OQ staff have been working both in the frontline and behind the scenes to keep the quarantine facility running for AIT community. The frontline staff consists of 12 members: 2 escorts, 2 drivers, 4 cleaners, and 4 guards. Behind the scenes are 6 administrative and support staff of the OQ.
On the anniversary of AIT OQ, September 13th, 2021, the President of AIT Dr. Eden Woon donated 100,000 baht total as one-year anniversary bonus to all the frontline and behind the scenes staff in appreciation of their service to the OQ. On September 16, 2021, the AIT Christian Fellowship (AITCF) community made contribution of 50,000 baht towards the OQ facility operations. In December 2020, generous donors also gifted the 12-frontline staff with a year-end bonus in appreciation of their good work.
In addition to support received by OQ staff, the OQ facility itself has been receiving support to keep it running for many more students of AIT.
On June 28, 2021, Mr. Umer H. Al-Qureshi, an AIT alumnus from Masters in Structural Engineering class of 1999 and a Senior Software Developer at Computer & Structures, Inc., U.S.A., provides in-kind donation of 50 Rapid Antigen test kits to track and trace potential cases and to keep AIT community safe from COVID-19.
On June 24, 2021, Ratch Cogeneration Co. Ltd., represented by Managing Director Mr. Thanabodee Pratumrat, signed an agreement with AIT President Dr. Eden Woon to support 100,000 baht towards the OQ facility operations.
It appears that COVID-19 will be with us for a while, thus the quarantine requirement. Until the quarantine is no longer needed, AIT will keep its Organizational Quarantine facility running to accommodate overseas student during this challenging pandemic time.
Below, five students from five different countries share their AIT OQ experience on its anniversary.
Edin Duc, Vietnam, Master of Business Administration program
Jaynos Cortes, the Philippines, Aquaculture and Aquatic Resources Management program
Ms. Aimi Sugihara, Japan, Gender and Development Studies program
Raphael Wing, Indonesia, Master of Business Administration program
Khouloud Jaffel, Tunisia, Marine Plastic Abatement program