As Managing Director of Kloepfel Corporate Finance, Dr. Heiko Frank travels extensively internationally, conducting transactions in Asia and the USA. We talk about what it was like when he came back from Asia on March 6, 2020 – to a different Germany than he had left a few weeks earlier.
Dr. Heiko Frank: “In February, I was in Asia on a private trip. The decision to travel to Asia with the family was not at all easy at the time, because it was already known at the end of January that Corona existed. After intensive consideration, we made a conscious decision to make the trip to Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore. At that time, there was coverage here in Germany like when the SARS virus broke out. We didn’t relate that to what came next.”
As an experienced traveler, Dr. Frank took the precaution of equipping himself in Germany with hand disinfectants and masks, which were still available cheaply and in sufficient quantities everywhere in February. But when the family got off the plane in Bangkok, it was already a completely different world than in Germany. There were thermal cameras everywhere at the airport, everyone – really everyone – had mouth and nose protection on. Both at the airport and in cab and hotel. In the hotel, a temperature measurement was taken right at the entrance doors even before check-in, then came a station for hand disinfection, only after which the family was allowed to enter the hotel. The shopping malls in Bangkok were also equipped with all the necessary security measures by this time. That was on February 10, 2020, and there were currently no measures in Germany.
No lockdown in Thailand:
The cultural sense of community protects against contagion
“The Asians were already trained by the first SARS wave,” Dr. Frank said. “Besides, in Thailand and other Asian countries, there is a very different culture: people protect other people by wearing masks, that’s not new there. If someone has a cold, he puts on the mask to protect the others. This is because the Thais and many other Asians collectively think of the community first, whereas in Europe and the U.S., the well-being of the individual is paramount. In Asia, one protects the community before oneself, protection of others comes before one’s own protection,” according to Dr. Frank’s exciting report.
Cheers to electronic communication
The journey continued to Vietnam. A country whose economic opening was just 25 years ago. Under the slogan “Doi Moi” (renewal), the country has since been on an economic upswing, but is still considered an emerging market. “We arrived in Vietnam and immediately got a message on our cell phone from the government to
Get Covid-19. So, as soon as we got off the plane, we had information on how to deal with the virus here. After five days, Vietnam had already closed its borders with China, at a time when there were still no restrictions on entry in Germany,” says Dr. Frank, impressed. “This is immediately communicated electronically – in a country that hasn’t even had enough time to produce a modern industry or middle class that can compete with the industrialized nations” said the experienced Asia manager. “We had a total of eleven flights crisscrossing Asia. In Vietnam, the filters were changed after each flight and the whole machine was disinfected. In the hotel, in addition to disinfection and mouth protection, there were already distance regulations, which was not yet the case in Thailand at that time.
Apps instead of paperwork
In Singapore, a city-state at the southernmost point of mainland Asia, the family then found another variation in dealing with Covid-19: There were thermal cameras everywhere, and only every second seat on the plane was occupied. Again, the message came from the government via SMS, in every hotel elevator, in every shopping mall elevator was built-in disinfectant. The hotels were very well organized in dealing with Corona. In the restaurants, only every second table was occupied. At the reservation already runs the registration via app, slips of paper are no longer. You left the restaurant in the group of those who were sitting at the table. Thus, there were no mixtures at the entrance. Since Singapore is a small state, Singapore uses a tracking app. Dr. Heiko Frank: “I don’t understand why we still don’t have a tracking app in Germany. Because of data protection? We accept Google and Facebook but short-term tracking for health not?
The return to Germany
“When we came home on March 6, there were still many people sitting on the Viktualienmarkt, close together drinking wine. That was more than amazing for us coming from Asia,” says Dr. Frank about his arrival in Germany. “We had expected similar or even better measures than in Asia.” Instead, he said, there are endless discussions about mandatory masks and data protection.