There have been hardly any new infections in those countries for weeks, nevertheless, the German Government considers them to be corona risk areas and this causes misunderstanding.
A new list of the German government on coronavirus risk areas causes surprise and criticism among German business representatives. In Thailand, the workplace of Continental manager Peter Rankl, the local authorities have not been able to detect a single local coronavirus infection for more than three weeks, but nevertheless, in the eyes of the German government, Southeast Asia’s second largest economy is considered a country in which “there is an increased risk of infection with Sars-CoV-2”.
“That surprised me a lot,” said Ranke, Head of Southeast Asia at Continental’s automotive division. “If you live here, it is not understandable why Thailand should be a risk country.”
After all, according to official data, the virus outbreak in the country could be contained much earlier than in Europe: Overall, only 3135 infections have been confirmed in Thailand since the pandemic began – in Germany the number of cases is 60 times higher and since last month, the few individual cases that still occured can only be found in the state quarantine centers – among Thai people who returned to their home countries from abroad.
The fact that the country is now listed as a risk area by the German government in a list published last Tuesday on the portal of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) will have decisive consequences for the Thai industry, because the risk list that had been drawn up by several German ministries is the basis for possible quarantine requirements in Germany.
The German Ministry of the Interior states: “According to the federal model regulation, there is only a 14-day quarantine obligation for people entering the Federal Republic of Germany from a risk area .”
Thailand is not the only country whose classification is astonishing. The German Government also regards Vietnam as a country at risk of coronavirus – although the state, which has a population of around 100 million, is considered by experts to be an example of an almost perfectly successful containment strategy .
Vietnam’s authorities were the first country outside of China to isolate whole villages infected with Covid-19 at the beginning of the pandemic and those result are impressive as Vietnam recorded a total of only 335 Covid-19 cases and not a single death.
China is not considered a risk area
The German business community in Vietnam is now shocked: “The classification of Vietnam as a risk area is wrong and can only be based on wrong assumptions,” says German lawyer Wolfram Grünkorn, who represents German companies in Ho Chi Minh City.
Marko Walde, who heads the German Chamber of Commerce Abroad in Vietnam, sees things similarly. “The designation of Vietnam as a risk area surprises me”. There have been no new infections in the country for more than 60 days, “so that the data situation does not reflect the classification as a risk area”.
He says that of course you trust the German ministries involved in their “subjective assessment”. “However, as a delegation from the German economy in Vietnam, we would come to a different result and remove Vietnam from this risk list.”
Roland Wein, head of the AHK in Thailand, is similarly diplomatic and praises the Thai government for how well it has managed to contain the pandemic. “Against the background of these successes and the very low number of infections in the country, we think it is appropriate that the German government removes Thailand from the list of risk areas and removes the travel warning for Thailand.”
German companies in Thailand also suffer from the fact that the country has had almost no foreigners in the country for months and investment projects are therefore on hold but the Thai authorities are considering opening the borders to business travelers from July.
He says that of course you trust the federal ministries involved in their “subjective assessment”. “However, as a delegation from the German economy in Vietnam, we would come to a different result and remove Vietnam from this risk list.”
Roland Wein, head of the AHK in Thailand, is similarly diplomatic: he praises the Thai government for how well it has managed to contain the pandemic. “Against the background of these successes and the very low number of infections in the country, we think it is appropriate that the federal government removes Thailand from the list of risk areas and removes the travel warning for Thailand.”
German companies in Thailand also suffer from the fact that the country has had almost no foreigners in the country for months and investment projects are therefore on hold. However, the authorities are considering opening the borders to business travelers from July.
According to the current regulations, engineers from Germany would first have to be quarantined in Thailand for two weeks at the beginning of their deployment – and then possibly another two weeks in Germany after the return trip according to the risk list.
Outbreak in Beijing
Other Asian countries with higher numbers of cases, such as China and Singapore are not considered risk areas for the German Government. China has had a new outbreak of coronavirus with dozens of cases in the capital Beijing , since last week . Singapore, a city-state with around five and a half million inhabitants, has a total of more than 40,000 infections and in the past seven days alone, more than 2000 new Covid-19 cases have been added.
Singapore is thus just below the threshold that the RKI names as the main criterion for the classification of risk areas and the primary focus is on where there are more than 50 new infections within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants.
But countries such as Thailand and Vietnam are even more clearly below the threshold but the RKI however, leads a second assessment step, which applies to countries that lie below the limit: “Qualitative criteria” would decide whether there is still a risk of an increased risk of infection, it is said.
The German Foreign Office mainly provides the information and the RKI does not want to explain in more detail what information has led to the classification of Vietnam and Thailand as a risk country. The Federal Foreign Office also did not answer questions on this and the ministry spokesman said in Berlin that the list, which was drawn up together with the Federal Ministry of Health, would be checked weekly.
It is possible that the officials generally distrust the data from the authoritarian countries however, the question arises as to why you obviously rely on the information from Beijing.
In addition, observers in Thailand and Vietnam see no reason to doubt the information provided by the local authorities. In Vietnam, local CDC officials publicly expressed their confidence in official government statements.
In Thailand too, given the high number of tests, there is great trust in the official numbers. Almost half a million tests have been completed to date and more than 99 percent were negative. One wonders how much more needs to be tested to be believed, says Continental manager Rankl. “In any case, I feel very safe in Thailand.”
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