How to Corona: why we can learn something from Thailand.

At the beginning of March I left for a road bike trip to Thailand (to answer the immediately arising questions: Yes, you can ride there with a road bike. Yes, the roads are very good and the drivers more considerate than in Germany. And yes, it is left-hand traffic).

While in February everyone here was still thinking “what do I care about the Corona-infected employees of Webasto?”, the Thais have been taking precautions since January, ever since the place name Wuhan & Infection came up. Because if anyone has experience with persistent viruses, it’s the Southeast Asian country that has already fought its battles with bird flu or dengue fever. Today, Thailand occupies 7th place among the top 10 countries best equipped against epidemics according to the Global Health Security Index (Germany, by the way, is 14th). There are contingency plans galore, and according to the index, the “ability to activate countermeasures in an emergency” is not bad either.

The measures did not go unnoticed by me either and were unimaginable for Germany three months ago: 99% of people wore face masks on public transport in February – though most had done so before and it is nothing unusual. The only ones who felt like they were at the Wies’n without traditional costume were me and my friend without a mask.

At each skytrain and water cab stop, security personnel stood at the entrance and exit and kindly asked to use the disinfectant dispenser; anti-pandemic entrance controls with infrared and fever monitors are installed in the shopping malls. In a hotel elevator there were disposable cotton swabs to press the buttons for the floor :-). Okay – I smiled at that a bit, but hey – it’s an excellent idea, apart from the ecological footprint.

At the Bangkok airport, everyone was directed through an opaque fever-control system as they entered, and at check-in, female ground staff handed out slips of paper for transit travelers to fill out. I don’t know where all the personnel suddenly came from, positioned day after day in front of supermarkets, hotels, streetcars, airports, etc., smilingly asking to take fevers or disinfect hands. In terms of activation capability, Thailand is obviously quite a bit ahead of Germany.

Sometimes I had the impression that this emergency mechanism had already become bureaucratized over the past virus-ridden and -plagued years: What a laugh I had when our cycling group had to fill out a health examination form à la ESTA when checking in at the hotel.

Afterwards, the fever thermometer was held to everyone’s forehead and the value was dutifully recorded. Mine was too high and so I had to wait and was not allowed to check in! Hello? I had just ridden 140 km through Southeast Asia on a road bike at 32 °C in the midday heat – you’re allowed to have a slightly elevated temperature! I had everything that day – but no Corona! I was told to wait five minutes and take my temperature again. Result: still elevated temperature. I had enough and still just went to the room …

A Thai would never do that. He does everything as he is told with his most endearing smile the world has ever seen. Despite this “obedience to authority”, you have to hand it to Thailand that they are really on top of things, don’t panic and don’t hoard heaps of toilet paper and rice at home (I guess)!

By the way, we are on 20.3. flown back to the ghost airport in Munich without any problems. No one took a fever, no one kindly donated disinfectant. Only two overtaxed policemen tried to check the passports of all passengers at the end of the passenger bridge. Half of it just passed them by. On 23.3. Thailand has battened down the hatches. Lucky :-).

From Bianca Brügesch