Publication:

The Western Star - 2020-03-25

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‘The world is a different place’

FRONT PAGE

DIANE CROCKER

CORNER BROOK, N.L. — The world Derek Fudge and his family came back to on Tuesday is totally different than the one they left almost two months ago on a dream vacation. Fudge, a former Corner Brook resident now living in Ottawa, was happy but a little weary, as he spoke of his travelling experience in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic just a few hours after arriving home. Fudge, his wife Jill Broadbent and sister Paulette Fudge left Canada on Jan. 20. Broadbent is also originally from Corner Brook and his sister still lives here. The three travelled to Thailand, spending five days in Bangkok before heading to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand and then to Phuket in Southern Thailand until Feb. 27. “Every day we just went to the beach and walked the beach.” On Feb. 27 they left on a four-day tour of Cambodia, followed by a 14-day tour of Vietnam. When they left home, Fudge said, the talk of and fear of COVID-19 was just beginning. “But keeping on top of it and listening to the Canadian news every day, we realized that there were a lot less cases of COVID-19 in South East Asia than there were in Canada.” He said he did not realize at the time the Asian countries had already taken a lot of precautions. Classes in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam were cancelled a month ago. “It’s amazing, because they certainly are not as wealthy as Canada by no means.” Everywhere they went, they could see safeguards, including the presence of hand sanitizer. “We were concerned, no doubt,” said Fudge, adding they, too, were careful. “We went through a bottle of hand sanitizer every two days.” Up to Feb. 23, Vietnam had only had 26 cases of COVID19. By then, Fudge was of the understanding all had recovered with no more cases reported until March 12. When they arrived at their last destination in Hanoi, the three were scheduled to go on a cruise in Halong Bay in Northern Vietnam, but it was cancelled, as were tours of Hanoi City. Fudge spoke of a story published in the media of a wealthy woman hiring a plane to return to Vietnam from Britain and all those on the plane becoming infected with COVID-19. “As soon as that happened, that was the end of all tourist activity,” he said. Fudge and his wife and sister were scheduled to fly from Hanoi to Bangkok, to Tokyo and then to Toronto on March 16. “We woke up on March 14 and got a note from Air Canada that our flight was cancelled. That’s all we got, your flight from Tokyo to Toronto was cancelled. “We started to freak.” They called Air Canada but could not get anyone on the phone. They tried to change their flight online but the website was shut down. “In fact, the website was saying that our flight was still on, so we had no idea what to do.” Because of the time difference, Fudge called his son, Steve Fudge, at home. Steve left his home at midnight and drove to the airport in Ottawa. “Thinking this is the only way we’re going to get in touch with a live person,” he explained. Steve got to the airport at 12:30 a.m. only to find out no one would be there until 4 a.m. “So, he slept on a bench at the airport, hoping to be the first person to meet the Air Canada agent when they came on at 4 a.m.” PANIC MOUNTING When he finally spoke to someone, he was told they couldn’t do anything because they couldn’t get into the website. “So, then panic set in.” They hemmed and hawed and decided to fly on to Tokyo on Monday. Fudge said once there they figured they’d become Air Canada’s problem and the airline would have to put them up. But they didn’t know how long they’d be there. “Just as we’re boarding the plane, we find that our flight that was cancelled for the 16th was now going to take place on the 17th. “OK, one day delayed, we can live with that,” said Fudge. After arriving in Tokyo the three rushed to the Air Canada desk and learned there was a flight leaving for Los Angeles that night. They took the flight arriving in Los Angeles at 6 p.m. on Monday and then in Toronto at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday. He arrived home in Ottawa at 9 a.m. “Travelling time (was) 54 hours in total and we went through airports in five countries, so Vietnam, Thailand, Tokyo, the U.S. and Canada.” It took his sister almost another full day, as she couldn’t get a flight to Deer Lake until late night March 17. Fudge said, as they made their way back, they saw a heightened concern around COVID-19 with some airports even taking their temperatures. And most of those airports were nearly empty. “In Hanoi, Vietnam; Bangkok, Thailand; Tokyo, Japan, every person in those airports, every staff in those airports wore masks, had gloves on, took our temperature, asked us about our health.” In Vietnam, they were told it was a criminal offence not to report any health issues. In Los Angeles, however, not one person wore a mask. In Toronto the airport was busier than those in South Asia and about 30 per cent of the airport staff wore masks. Neither Fudge, his wife or sister have any symptoms of COVID-19, but they are self-isolating for 14 days as required. After a few days’ rest, he plans some car trips and walks in the woods where he won’t encounter any people. He said the experience will definitely cause him to change travel habits and noted there were some extra costs incurred along the way. “The world is a different place than when we left. “Up to March 13 we had just a perfect vacation.”

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