Day 194: Covid-19… should I stay or should I go?


As I ate breakfast this morning, Trump announced that all flights from Europe to the US would be stopped.

This followed the World Health Organisation’s declaration of a coronavirus pandemic.

This evening, I found myself awaiting the results of the UK’s COBRA (emergency planning meeting) to see what had been determined there.

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the news and the announcements from public health agencies. Travelling through Singapore I saw first hand the precautionary measures being taken and I’ve seen the impact that fear is having.

I was asked at the Kek Lok Si Temple yesterday if I was worried about coronavirus and today, while I waited for the rally driver in charge of the number 10 bus to the Botanic Gardens, a man asked me if now was a good time to be travelling.

According to World Health Organisation figures, the numbers of reported cases are lower here in Malaysia (149 as of 12th March 2020) and in the next countries on my route, than back home in the UK.

That comes with a caveat. These are reported figures. There are likely to be other cases – we just haven’t counted them.

Malaysia, though not to the same extent as Singapore, has been implementing prevention measures – advice on handwashing is everywhere. While Singapore temperature screened everyone entering any public building, Malaysia has focused on tourist destinations.

I’ve still had my temperature checked more times a day than at any point in my entire life. Yesterday it was 36°C, in case anyone is wondering.

With Trump banning European flights, I wonder how many other countries will follow suit and, in Asia, I’m wondering about land border crossings too – because that’s what is going to affect me for the next few months.

Of course, there is a debate on whether travel bans are effective.

With advice including not to travel, I do feel conflicted. That’s exactly what I’m doing but, I’m already here. Stopping the journey requires travel to get back to the UK so whatever I do means the continuation of travel.

Plus, on a purely numbers front, airports and flights mean more people, unless everyone stays away, and more crowds than on a bus…and that’s presuming that the rest of the world doesn’t follow Trump’s lead and ban flights for the next month.

So, I have also been keeping an eye on the UK Foreign Office page. I do this as a matter of habit in relation to visa updates and it’s an excellent resource for UK passport holders. It has also added coronavirus information for people living or travelling overseas, and its advice is to pay attention to what’s going on in the country your visiting.

I had the Singapore Ministry of Health page bookmarked while I was there and I have done the same with the Malaysian Ministry of Health pages and I’ve been following their advice – handwashing and masks only if you’re ill.

By the way, Malaysian Ministry of Health have some excellent infographic resources that other countries could be looking at emulating. Sorry, I’m digressing.

One positive that I’m anticipating from flight bans… as well as the hope of reducing the transmission of infection obviously… is a reduction in carbon emissions.

China’s lockdown has been shown to have greatly reduced the country’s emissions and no flights to the US (from Europe) will no doubt have a similar effect.

Meanwhile, crowds are much lower than usual in Malaysia and I anticipate similar in Thailand which is my next destination.

Some people are wearing masks, especially at tourist attractions and you can see heightened anxiety whenever anybody coughs.

At the Botanic Gardens, I didn’t see anyone wearing masks – this appears to be used more like a local park for an early morning jog rather than a visitors’ hot spot.

After a brief wander I stopped for a coconut at a small cafe and, while watching the monkeys’ futile attempts to rob pieces of coconut, I listened to the radio.

One thing that strikes me in a comparison of Malaysian news coverage in comparison with other outlets… (it helps that English is commonly spoken on radio broadcasts here)…every coronavirus bulletin concludes with an update on the numbers of people who have recovered from the illness.

I genuinely think that is an important reminder for people.

The two Buddhist temples I visited next meant a walk through residential areas and shopping areas. It wasn’t crowded and no-one was wearing masks.

At the temples themselves – a Thai temple across the road from its Burmese counterpart – I almost had the places to myself.

I counted five other visitors at the Thai temple and two small boys feeding the tortoises in the other.

It’s very peaceful in Georgetown.

Excellent sources of advice on coronavirus are here, here and here. Yes, I do have a UK bias.

Do look at the statistics. These guys are reliable for presenting the information in an easy to read way.

If you have a twitter account, follow the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health in your own country.

Try to avoid Facebook and Twitter sites set up with Coronavirus in the title. It’s not clear who is running those. Facebook is actually directing you to the Ministry of Health in your own country when you type in coronavirus.

I’m certain good intentions are involved but I’ve seen a couple regurgitating information that is out of date or incorrect.

But the creativity in relation to handwashing guidance is astounding. This is my favourite piece on how to ensure you spend twenty seconds washing your hands.

There’s something for every taste out there though. Find what works for you.

And I absolutely love the video of Italian Grandma covering hygiene, quarantine and not discriminating against people.

Usual service tomorrow.

Categories: Malaysia, Public Health, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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