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Foreigners’ disdain for face masks worries Vietnamese

Sunday, March 22, 2020, 20:00 GMT+7
Foreigners’ disdain for face masks worries Vietnamese
Two foreign tourists are seen not wearing face masks while walking on Nguyen Van Binh Street Book in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

A number of readers have written to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper expressing their concerns seeing many foreigners belittling the risk of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as they ignored wearing face masks despite being encouraged to do so.

As the pandemic is becoming complicated in Vietnam and around the world, more and more people are putting on face masks when going out of their home, in addition to washing their hands frequently with soap, as a preventive measure to protect themselves and those around them from the virus.

However, many foreigners still refuse to wear face masks, concerning many Vietnamese people who do not mind doing it.

“In other countries, Asians are discriminated against for wearing masks," reads one comment left under a Tuoi Tre story.

"In Vietnam, Vietnamese people fear seeing foreigners without face masks.

"They think that COVID-19 is just a normal flu, so they keep traveling.”

The Tuoi Tre article included pictures of groups of foreign tourists without face masks on at tourist destinations, including the Ho Chi Minh City Central Post Office and Can Tho City’s Cai Rang Floating Market. 

In fact, it seems that not all Vietnamese are aware of the face mask thing, as the story also reported that many locals choose not to wear face masks in public places such as markets and parks.

A crowd of foreign tourists without face masks gather in front of the Saigon Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, March 16, 2020. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Foreign tourists, without wearing face masks, gather in front of the Saigon Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, March 16, 2020. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

As the number of COVID-19 patients including many arriving from Europe is increasing in Vietnam, stories to remind people of wearing masks have been picked up by media outlets throughout the country in recent days.

A story on the official portal of the Ho Chi Minh City administration featured foreigners not wearing face masks on the streets and at public places like bus stations, supermarkets, and airports.

Meanwhile, another article said some foreign tourists even refused to wear face masks even though they can be acquired for free.

In the comment section of a piece on the issue run by Tuoi Tre, a reader posting under the username 'Thy' complained that “foreigners don’t wear face masks.”

A group of foreign tourists visit the Ho Chi Minh City Central Post Office with their faces uncovered on March 16, 2020. Photo: Thao Le/ Tuoi Tre

A group of foreign tourists visit the Ho Chi Minh City Central Post Office with their faces uncovered on March 16, 2020. Photo: Thao Le / Tuoi Tre

Another comment by 'Thanh' noted, “This is not their country so they are not afraid of the local laws. ‘I feel safe’ or ‘I’m still young and not afraid [of COVID-19]’ are all excuses for their irresponsibility.”

“If they don’t care about other people’s health, we have no reason to welcome them. Maybe we should send them home so that they can enjoy a more ‘civilized’ life,” the comment reads.

Rather than wait for tourists to listen to advice, some cities are doing their best to make sure every tourist is aware of putting on face masks. 

Hoi An, for example, has stationed security teams at the entrances to its Ancient Town to remind visitors to wear face masks. Those who refuse to follow suit are denied entry. 

A separate team has been directed by the city to distribute leaflets with updated COVID-19 information and medical recommendations to restaurants, hotels, and other foreigner-frequented businesses.

“The number of visitors wearing masks has risen from last week, but a large number of foreign tourists have still not,” Truong Thi Ngoc Cam, director of Hoi An’s Culture, Sports, and Radio Broadcasting Center told Tuoi Tre on Wednesday.

"It’s very hard to convince foreigners, especially those from Europe or the U.S. to wear masks because their general outlook on COVID-19 is different from ours,” Cam added.

Two foreign tourists are seen walking in the central city of Hoi An without face masks. Photo: B.D/Tuoi Tre

Two foreign tourists are seen walking in the central city of Hoi An without face masks. Photo: B.D / Tuoi Tre

The south-central city of Nha Trang has also been dealing with foreign visitors not wearing face masks at bus stations and tourist destinations such as Thap Ba Po Nagar Tower and Tran Phu Beach.

“My hotel’s staff gave me face masks and hand sanitizer but Nha Trang makes me feel safe,” 28-year-old Russian tourist Zulia told Tuoi Tre

“I don’t feel the need to wear face masks or worry about the epidemic.”

Meanwhile, a representative from Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi said that although most passengers are wearing face masks at the airport, a few foreign passengers on domestic flights are still opting not to wear them.  

Foreign tourists visit the Ho Chi Minh City Central Post Office with their faces uncovered on March 16, 2020. Photo: Thao Le/ Tuoi Tre

Foreign tourists visit the Ho Chi Minh City Central Post Office with their faces uncovered on March 16, 2020. Photo: Thao Le / Tuoi Tre

‘They should be informed’

Some Tuoi Tre readers also said that Vietnam should better inform tourists about regulations on face mask wearing.

One reader advised that local authorities should establish teams to give away free face masks and remind both tourists and Vietnamese citizens of wearing them.

Reader Hai Van suggested adding COVID-19 prevention instructions and regulations to electronic traffic information boards along the streets for everyone, especially foreign tourists, to see.

“I’m worried about seeing so many foreign tourists belittling the epidemic,” she added.

Meanwhile, reader Hien Nguyen wrote that face masks should be sold at public places where the regulations are applicable because it is not very easy to purchase them amidst recent panic buying.

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