So, I've just recently had the dubious pleasure of travelling about 10 hours on the high speed rail network in Europe. This being Coronavirus time, there are addition travel rules and restrictions in place over the summer. Thankfully, as we were pretty okay with bringing the R0 infection rate down and contained, the borders are at least open to residents and citizens of the EU (with some exceptions).
This means that you need to look up the travel advice from the various countries that you are are passing through (as well as the destination itself!). Best to also check just before you leave on your trip, as these things can change in a matter of days. That said, I suspect that all this summer travelling by most of Europe is going to result in a second wave (already the re-infection rate is above 1 in local hotspots...) and we will face a second round of lockdowns, both hard and soft. Sigh... there goes the rest of the year's work!
However, at the moment, there is work... and for work, I have to travel. I needed to get from Netherlands to Austria for this particular week, and I opted to take the train... partly because I wasn't in a hurry, and I always prefer the high-speed rail network across Germany rather than dealing with the nightmare that is airports. The other reason was that I was a bit worried about getting sick whilst away (getting sick whilst away is always no fun... plus, the getting Coronavirus would mean that I would have to quarantine and lose at least two weeks of work... in a foreign country...).
Unfortunately, the trains were actually quite full! There was no half seating (So I was glad that I had booked seats...) in the second class... but on the way back, I will be travelling first class, and there will be much less people in that area. Still, at least the air isn't recycled like it is on the plane.. and despite the full seating, there is still more room than on a plane!
On the trains (all public transport) in Netherlands, Germany and Austria it is mandatory to wear a mask to avoid infecting other people. A spread of the virus on a mass transport network would be a disaster! In preparation for the travel, I had brought a couple of types of masks to wear... each with their own benefits and disadvantages... plus a nifty little tool to make mask-wearing that much more comfortable!
The first mask that I wore for the first part of the trip was a heavier mask... fabric, double layered with a pocket on the inner layer to hold a filter. It is a nice tight fit, and on short public transport rides in The Netherlands (less than 2 hours travel time...), it is a really decent mask to wear (if you have the little nifty tool that I describe later!). A plus is that it is washable and re-usasble (using lots of disposable masks gets rapidly expensive and bad for the environment!).
On the longer international train ride... this was a less fun option. The mask does get quite heavy to breathe in after several hours.... Now, when you are awake it isn't too much of a problem... you do get a bit drowsy though! However, I had woke up really early in the morning to start the travel... and so, I promptly fell asleep as soon as I was on the high speed train (I had 4 hours before the next stop..), and that is where the downsides of the mask came into play.
When you are awake, you can regulate your breathing to breathe deeper and slower... making the mask less uncomfortable to breath in... however, when you are asleep, your breathing changes... mine is shallower and lighter... and that means that I suddenly woke up with a start, thinking that I couldn't breathe at all! Of course, as soon as I woke properly, I could breathe in a better deeper way... but I'm afraid that I couldn't do that whilst unconscious!
The second option was the light disposable mask. This is much less good fit, it hugs loosely... but if you use that special little gadget (at the end of this post...), it does hug much more snugly! However, it is only a light single layer with no filter of any sort, so... it is a little less good than the other mask. That said, both masks are not really huge blocks to air and liquid flow... they are just for risk minimisation, not nullification! For that you would want a N95 mask, and that is expensive, requires custom fitting... and would be just too much to ask the public to wear!
So, with this mask, I could breathe much easier... at the cost of having more potentially infected airflow coming in and out. However, I was able to sleep much easier without having drowning dreams!
So, the nifty little gadget that I've been talking about is a 3D printed cutout from a design on Thingiverse. These all come in various modifications (Thingiverse is open source designs for 3D printing, so there are constant tweaks!) depending on sizes or types of buckle.
It fastens the mask straps around the back of your head, so that they aren't constantly pulling at your ears. If you have worn a mask for several hours... it starts to hurt quite a bit. It also pulls tighter than when the loops are tightened around the ears, so it gives the mask a more snug fit. I would have to say that it is a great idea to travel with a few of these... if you know someone with a 3D printer, they are cheap and fast to print... and the added protection and comfort is definitely worth it!
So, when travelling on public transport during these Covid-times, it is mandatory in Europe to wear a mask. Depending on your length of travel, you should choose something that is appropriate. Like many things, it is a trade-off between comfort and safety... If you are awake and you can handle it, a thicker mask is good... but for a little break in between, you should have a few lighter masks that you can swap the heavier ones out for.... and definitely print yourself some of these gadgets if you have the chance! If you are travelling for a long time, your ears WILL LOVE THEM!