By Office of Public Affairs
27 July 2022 – After serving as the essential quarantine home to more than 600 people over the past two years, the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) formally closed its Organizational Quarantine (OQ) in a ceremony held on 27 July 2022.
Beginning in January 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic spread globally, and Thailand was no exception. Intending to create a safe environment within the campus, an AIT Coronavirus Task Force was formed at the end of January 2020, which developed and implemented policies and measures to curb the spread of the virus within the campus premises. In February 2020, AIT established the “Quarantine Quarters” (QQ), an internal campus facility in one of the dormitory units.
Following the declaration of a National Emergency by the Thai Government in the spring of 2020, contingency operational plans were put in place, and strict measures were imposed within the campus. All face-to-face classes were canceled in March, and online classes were introduced. Even with the cancellation of in-person classes, AIT had more than 1400 students and faculty, especially international, residing within the campus premises while exchange and Thai students returned home. Realizing the need for a robust quarantine facility within the campus, AIT applied for the establishment of AIT OQ in July 2020 and received approval from the Thai Department of Disease Control in August 2020, with Thammasat University Hospital as the medical partner.
Recalling all the efforts made by AIT since the start of the pandemic, Wanchai Sophonsakulrat, AIT OQ Manager and Director of the Office of Facilities and Assets Management (OFAM) shared, “AIT is the first university in Thailand to have its quarantine facility approved by the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand. International students from AIT, as well as Thammasat University, were provided with the mandatory 14-day quarantine facility on campus. The OQ operated in line with the government’s health and safety guidelines and was used by a total of 501 AIT students and employees, as well as their dependents, and 101 students from Thammasat University from over 50 countries.”
Expressing gratitude to frontline workers, AIT President Dr. Eden Woon remarked, “Regular operation of the OQ wouldn’t have been possible without all the heroes who made great efforts and sacrifices, facing high risks, to serve the people of AIT and ensured that the campus remained safe by adhering to precautionary measures 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” He also offered condolences to one of the workers who succumbed to the disease.
President Woon added: “The Thai government has been immensely thoughtful in facilitating and supporting international staff and students. During this time, we closely coordinated with various ministries, government agencies, and embassies and are grateful for the support we received. I want to extend thanks to Thammasat University as well.”
President Woon further commended the hard work of the staff in the Office of Facilities and Assets Management and Office of Thailand Affairs, who worked hard to manage the facilities, providing necessary support to the isolated and quarantined community members and coordinating with different stakeholders. He also thanked the AIT community and students for adhering to the rules. “Despite severe challenges, we were able to continue operation “without missing a beat”, and we succeeded in maintaining our enrollment rates,” he added.
Signaling the closure of the facility, President Woon rolled up the green net, which was placed as a barricade for the OQ, and he removed the OQ Sign Board and opened the gate. Now the area is open for free access by all. “We have closed a major chapter in AIT history today, but we still have to be vigilant and continue following the precautionary measures because Covid is still here,” he appealed.
Renz Prudenciado, a Master’s student in Gender and Development Studies, thanked AIT management for ensuring the students’ and AIT community’s safety. Sharing her experience of spending 14 days quarantined in the OQ, she said, “It was a completely different experience. Regardless of being in quarantine, the excellent services provided by the OQ management, including the rooms, food, hygiene, health, and safety measures, were extremely helpful in relieving the stress. I did not feel alone. Indeed, I was able to cherish the solitude”.