When I published my last post about preparing to go to Vietnam and Cambodia, a friend who is also a microbiologist like myself, left a comment saying that I should have titled my post ‘A Microbiologist Goes A-Travelling’. Indeed when I arrived at Bangkok airport and donned my mask, I looked around and could see people touching the front of their masks, pulling them off and on frequently, taking them off and storing them in their bags for further use and so on. I felt like going around giving instructions on proper usage of masks!
By contrast, Vietnam was amazing in their control measures for Coronavirus starting at the airport. There were signs everywhere advising people of the symptoms and what to do.
Every hotel, restaurant and museum had hand sanitizer at the door and museums were giving out free masks at the entrance. There is a culture of using masks because of pollution in Vietnam so its quite normal for people to wear masks in the street.
In Cambodia, there was less overt concern though I heard that people were avoiding large crowds and that public events had been cancelled. There also seemed to be a notion that Coronavirus doesn’t survive well in the heat and temperatures in Cambodia were over 30C.
We made it to the end without anyone getting sick and returned to Bangkok airport for our flight back to Rome. While we were on our trip, the outbreak had exploded in northern Italy and people were more worried about returning to Italy than travelling in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Practically everyone on our flight wore masks at the airport and many kept them on during the flight.
Back in Rome, the virus seems to be under control compared to the situation in northern Italy and we haven’t seen a huge number of cases. People over the age of 65 have been told to stay at home as much as possible. In general, people are going out less and many gatherings, even small ones have been cancelled. It’s likely just a matter of time before the virus spreads in Rome as well so there is a great deal of concern.
Now that I’ve updated you on the Coronavirus and mask usage, I can talk about the pleasant aspects of the trip so check out my next posts…