Objective This study assesses the role of social capital among people and communities in response to the first wave of the pandemic in 2020.
Design Qualitative study using focus group discussions.
Setting Capital city (Bangkok) and the four regions (north, northeast, south and central) of Thailand.
Participants 161 participants of 19 focus groups with diverse backgrounds in terms of gender, profession, education and geography (urban/rural; regions). They are selected for different levels of impact from the pandemic.
Findings The solidarity among the Thai people was a key contributing factor to societal resilience during the pandemic. Findings illustrate how three levels of social capital structure—family, community and local networks—mobilised resources from internal and external social networks to support people affected by the pandemic. The results also highlight different types of resources mobilised from the three levels of social capital, factors that affect resilience, collective action to combat the negative impacts of the pandemic, and the roles of social media and gender.
Conclusion Social capital plays significant roles in the resilience of individuals, households and communities to respond to and recover from the impacts of the pandemic. In many instances, social capital is a faster and more efficient response than other kinds of formal support. Social capital can be enhanced by interactions and exchanges in the communities. While face-to-face social contacts are challenged by the need for social distancing and travel restrictions, social media steps in as alternative socialisation to enhance social capital.