COVID-19 Updates

Countries/Regions Requiring Self-Quarantine

As directed by the Office of the Private Education Commission and Ministry of Education on 24 February, all parents, staff and students within schools must follow a strict 14-day self-quarantine if any member of the household has traveled to or transited through a country identified by the Ministry of Public Health. Currently, this includes the following:

  • Countries identified by the MOPH as dangerous for travel: China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Iran, Italy, South Korea
  • Countries identified by the MOPH as at risk for travel: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, USA

 

NIST Communications

Within the NIST community we are striving to maintain clear, consistent information based on reliable sources. As the situation continues to develop, additional updates will be archived here.

 

COVID-19 Situation Report

As of 20 March the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Thailand has exceeded 200 and is projected to continue rising at a rapid pace. In an attempt to slow the spread, the Thai government has begun implementing social distancing measures similar to other countries around the world. This includes the mandatory closure all school campuses, which have now shifted to online instruction.

It is highly important to note that international travel is now dramatically impacted by the policies being implemented both by airlines and governments. The United States and United Kingdom have both issued notices indicating that any of their citizens who reside in their home countries but are traveling abroad should return as soon as possible or potentially risk being unable to do so at a later date. At this time no special guidance has been given to citizens of those countries who reside abroad.

Approximately 80% of all cases continue to be mild, and more serious infections occur in those 50 years of age or older. Though the fatality rate is several times higher than the common flu, medical experts generally agree that this figure will decrease when we are able to more fully track those with minimal symptoms. Special care should be taken to protect those at the greatest risk: the elderly and older adults with preexisting conditions. While some cases have occurred in children, these represent a small number, and the symptoms are mild. If you or a family member is ill, and you were at risk of exposure, seek out medical advice, as this will dramatically improve quality of care.

 

COVID-19 Information & Precautions

What can we anticipate will come next in terms of a response to COVID-19?

At this time the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Public Health and other government authorities have not provided an indication of further action in the context of schools. However, if Thailand were to experience a larger scale outbreak, it’s possible that other directives may be issued on short notice. As of 26 February, a number of new cases were reported in Bangkok, including a student. Additionally, several hundred individuals around Thailand are under investigation for possible infection. It is therefore increasingly likely that schools will be impacted.

How is the 14-day quarantine enforced?

This touches on the significant challenge of one government agency mandating a quarantine in a manner that does not necessarily align to the responses of other government agencies. To date, the Ministry of Public Health has not called for a quarantine of Thai citizens or non-Thai residents, regardless of travel history, nor has a ban been instituted for visitors from any country. They instead have implemented more comprehensive screening measures for those arriving from regions considered at risk. These inconsistencies pose a challenge for schools in two key respects:
  1. Schools are institutions dedicated to educating children, and are not equipped to act as enforcers of government policy.
  2. The lack of a city-wide or country-wide quarantine or travel ban means that a risk of exposure exists for all community members, particularly when in public or on public transport. This will continue to be the case given the increasing number of cases occurring in Bangkok.

Is there guidance for what we should do if our family is in self-quarantine?

The Department of Disease Control in the Ministry of Public Health has provided the following guidelines to help students and families understand the expectations of a quarantine. The document also provides a sense of the protocols that we are following in monitoring students at school.

Where can we access the Ministry of Education directive?

The initial announcement from the ministry came in the form of a press conference, followed by an email confirmation from ISAT at 6:06 PM on Sunday, 23 February. A written letter was circulated the following day. Although the ministry has indicated that they will upload an English translation of this on their website, this has not yet been posted at this time. Additionally, we received a follow-up letter from the Office of the Private Education Commission, the department of the ministry that oversees private and international schools, confirming the directive.

What should our family do as we look ahead to the Songkran & summer breaks?

The challenge we all face at this time is the unpredictability of the continued spread of the virus. Projecting where outbreaks may occur can be challenging, meaning flexibility in travel plans is crucial. If you will be planning a trip with your family or for business, we highly recommend avoiding areas currently identified as at risk by the Thai Ministry of Public Health, World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control, and those with rising numbers of cases. If you will be purchasing tickets to other locations, please consider flexible ticketing, which would allow you to recoup some of the cost should you need to change your plans.

NIST Policy

How will this situation impact the IB exams and exhibitions at NIST?

The IB has created a resource page detailing their current stance, though it's important to note that this may change as the situation continues to develop. We will be closely monitoring communication from the IB and will inform parents and students of any changes. At this time we anticipate holding the exhibitions and exams, though access may be restricted solely to members of the NIST community.

If my children are affected by the quarantine, will they be listed as absent?

No. Within Veracross we will use a designation that records them as being off campus but still present for a learning engagement. This means it will not count toward their absences on their school records. For this reason it is very important, if you have not already done so, to inform the Elementary Office (eleoffice@nist.ac.th) and/or Secondary Office (secoffice@nist.ac.th) if your family is affected by the quarantine. Please note that absences for other reasons will still follow standard policy.

How will the school support families who are missing ECAs & NIST Music Academy lessons?

Unfortunately, we are unable to address a student missing an ECA, as these cannot be rescheduled. However, we will do our very best to reschedule NIST Music Academy lessons where possible.

Is NIST prepared for the spread of illness in our community?

NIST maintains a comprehensive crisis prevention handbook that details clear protocols and responses to a wide range of situations, from fires to civil unrest. Additionally, several years ago we developed a decision matrix to specifically address the spread of infectious illnesses. This allows us to maintain a clear set of decision points based on levels of risk and the spread of viruses, including in campus access, learning, operations and several other areas. Most importantly, due to the recent closures caused by pollution, we are continuing to prepare for scenarios that may require more extensive periods of online learning that allows teachers to continue engaging with students in a consistent, impactful manner.

Why doesn’t the school check passports at the gate to determine who has traveled to one of the countries?

One of NIST’s greatest strengths is diversity. However, that also means that our families are far more transient than those at many other international schools, and travel abroad is very common. Given the size of our community, it would require significant resources to conduct this check. This would be further complicated by the fact that the use of stamps when traveling can be very inconsistent, particularly for citizens of some Western countries. Additionally, we strongly believe that holding to our values of integrity, caring and community are crucial in situations such as this. Our community is built on mutual trust and respect, and we know that all families will be responsible in adhering to this requirement. Based on the cooperation of parents, we are pleased that this has been the case. If there are concerns that arise, we will follow up with families individually.