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BANGKOK, Thailand – During the COVID cases in Thailand on the rise, some Buddhist monks wear PPE over their distinctive robes, deliver oxygen bottles, take nasal samples to aid in testing, and even help carry the dead to the crematoria.

Deputy Abbot Mahapromphong of the Wat Suthi Wararam Buddhist temple puts on personal protective equipment (PPE) before performing rapid COVID-19 tests on residents of the Charoen Krung neighborhood in Bangkok on July 30, 2021. (AFP)

Thailand is struggling to contain its recent outbreak, fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant, which overwhelms health care and further damages a troubled economy.

“There are many Thais who always do are still being ignored by the public health system, ”Mahapromphong, 33, the deputy abbot of Suthi Wararam Temple in the Thai capital, told AFP.

He has been working in Bangkok’s poorer neighborhoods since July 21, distributing oxygen tanks, food and medical supplies to the needy and taking samples for tests.

Monks are held in high regard in the Buddhist kingdom and have been inundated with donations when it was he added.

He learned how to swab nasal swabs from the doctors and nurses who work in his temple, which doubles as an isolation center for those infected with the virus.

A man winced when Mahapromphong removed the swab and put the sample in a plastic pot.

“So it’s time to give something back to people. At least we could encourage them to keep fighting. “

Supornchaithammo, a monk at the Chin Wararam Worawiharn Temple, is helping with the grim task of bringing the corpses to the crematorium.

” I am ready to take the risk here to enter, ”he said. “If I contract the virus, I’ll be ready to accept it without regrets.”

The majority of new infections have been detected since April, when the latest wave was sparked by a cluster in an upscale nightlife district of Bangkok that frequented by political affiliates.

The government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-Cha has been severely criticized for its handling of the pandemic, from allegations of mismanagement of vaccines to a lack of government compensation for the sectors affected.

Monk Supornchaithammo says he never expected this to be his routine, but he’s happy to help.

“I didn’t think I would do anything like this when I was ordained,” he told AFP .

“But everyone needs a helping hand in a situation like this and I’m proud to be here.”

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