Busy time at Nong Chan fresh market in Vientiane Capital. Photo by: UNDP Lao PDR.

It was at least 6 weeks since the last visit to Talat Nong Chan, one of the busiest fresh markets in the heart of Vientiane Capital City. The lockdown was being eased, as no additional COVID-19 cases had been reported in over a month.  We were excited. Following public health advice, we put on our face masks, dropped small bottles of hand sanitizer in our bags, ready to head out for fresh groceries at 6:30 a.m., on that Saturday morning. 

When we arrived at the market, a few hand-washing stations with soap were seen along the way to the fresh produce quarter. But hardly anyone stopped by to wash their hands. A few who did, washed their hands for just a few seconds with no soap. At that point, we were starting to feel nervous. 

A hand-washing station with soap installed at the market to adapt to “New Normal”. Photo by: UNDP Lao PDR.

It is understandable that weeks of being unable to go out, meet or live “normally” must have been taken its toll. But isn’t it too early to throw caution to the winds?

Some people had no face masks, some others that had put them under the chin, physical distancing was gone, and people pushed through the crowds, brushing shoulders to shoulders. These were dangerous behaviors that had helped spread COVID-19 widely in other countries. 

We headed home from the market with some concerns, but decided to meet again to check out the situation a week later.