From Quarantine Hotels to Ankle Bracelets: A Look at Approaches to the Pandemic Around the World

Sharing knowledge so that other restaurateurs benefit: In the 'Gastro-Live-Talk', Vanessa Vu, editor at ZEIT Online, and Uwe Opocensky, head chef at Restaurant Petrus in Hong Kong, discussed what gastronomy worldwide can learn from Corona.


‘A look around the world in the time of Covid-19’ might be a good subtitle for the Gastro-Live-Talk session at the beginning of 2021. The talk session recorded live (recording available at featured guests such as Uwe Opocensky, who discusses how he is experiencing the 4th (!) wave in Hong Kong and how the restaurant where he is the head chef is managing. ‘Since 6 December, we’ve only been able to open for lunch,’ Opocensky says. ‘We can seat 2 guests at each table, with a maximum of 50% occupancy. But under those conditions, our restaurants are full. Lots of people are working at home and go out for lunch.’

Hong Kong’s residents are sticking closely to the rules the government has set forth, according to this German head chef who has been living and working in Asia for many years now. Everyone wears a mask; whoever who wants (or needs) a test can get one free, he says. That includes the employees of Restaurant Petrus at Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong, as Opocensky notes: ‘We have tests that give a fairly reliable result after just 20 minutes.’ For events outside the restaurant, the staff are tested weekly. The state is also making every effort to get flare-ups under control as quickly as possible, he adds. A website provides precise information about the blocks – Hong Kong is a very densely populated city – where there is an outbreak. ‘When people who work at our restaurant live there, we are informed right away and those employees are not allowed to come to work for 2 weeks. And that is checked very rigorously.’

Ankle bracelets and special hotels for people quarantining

The way many parts of Asia – such as Taiwan, Vietnam and, of course, Hong Kong – are handling the pandemic restrictions stands in stark contrast to the European approach, as Vanessa Vu, editor at ZEIT Online’s Ressort X magazine, has also observed. ‘In Asian countries, they generally deal with quarantines very strictly,’ she says. The people affected spend the weeks either in hotels made available specially for quarantining or at home with an ankle bracelet, according to Vu. In her opinion, a hard lockdown with everyone in solidarity from the very start would have been better. ‘This week-by-week thing [in Europe] is exhausting for the economy and the psyche,’ says the editor with Vietnamese roots. She compares the approach in Germany particularly with the situation in Vietnam, where she has family and friends.

‘Vietnam is considered Covid-free,’ she says. Sometimes there are cases at the airport, she adds, but the outbreaks are quickly brought under control with mass testing and strict quarantines. And Vietnam is also working to develop its own vaccine. ‘The hospitality industry is open for business,’ Vu says. ‘People get together in large groups and go out normally. They just have to wear masks in the street in order to maintain a general awareness of the fact that the pandemic is not over yet.’


#WirSindGekommenUmZuBleiben – German for ‘we came to stay’ – was born during the coronavirus pandemic out of various initiatives that take a public stand for the same goal: to provide a perspective for the hospitality industry and garner support to help restaurateurs survive the crisis financially. Launched in May 2020, the initiative – which is supported by the industry magazine Rolling Pin – invited industry experts to digital discussions in German. In 19 live sessions, experts and people who have been impacted offered advice for staying afloat during the crisis and insights into gastronomy’s ‘new normal’ in the time of corona. Past topics have included the significance of vaccines for the hospitality industry and tips for setting up and expanding their delivery business.

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