Gazette – Sharing of my May, 2022 European business trips

Dr. Steve Wong


I have just completed a one-month business trip to Europe. From a social, economic, political and environmental perspective, my experience this time is markedly different from my travels during the pre-pandemic days.

Starting with our daily social habits, during meetings, apart from mutual greetings, there is concern expressed about the health of each other, whether they have been in contact with Covid 19 patients, and their vaccination records. We must take PCR tests and wear masks before meetings, and occasionally some meetings are cancelled because a supplier has contracted COVID. Incidentally, I got infected before the end of my trip. As a result, I had to inform the suppliers I had been in contact with in the past few days. I also had to cancel the rest of my itinerary.

Regarding economic impact, I have noticed a 30-50% increase in airfares, hotel and restaurant charges. In addition, due to insufficient aircrew, flight schedules have been reduced, resulting in all flights being full. There is also inadequate staffing at the airport; therefore, boarding, immigration, and security processes take much longer. Not to mention the delays caused by long queues to collect luggage.

I rented a car for five days for the trip, driving from France to the Netherlands via Belgium to meet clients on the way to Hamburg. However, when I returned the car, I received a bill for up to 1600 euros plus petrol, which made my trip very expensive. In addition, supply chain disruptions during the pandemic hamper regular car production as Covid patients cannot go to work. The Russo-Ukrainian War also affected the supply of materials and human resources, leading to a shortage of labour and goods and causing high inflation.

As a plastic recycler and environmental protection supporter, we are concerned about the massive consumption of single-use plastics for COVID materials, such as masks, gloves, shields, test materials and tools, amounting to approximately 10 million tons per year. That’s well above China’s past yearly import of plastic waste. Used COVID materials are considered medical waste and cannot be recycled for reuse. Used face masks are found in parks, streets, waterways, rivers, beaches and oceans mixed with food wrappers and other plastic materials, seriously impacting our natural habitat. We call on people to be self-disciplined and put these used plastic items into designated recycling systems and not just throw away.

How long will the COVID pandemic last is still a mystery. No one can have an accurate prediction. However, the recent COVID numbers tell us that it is still on the rise. Fortunately, the majority are mild cases with relatively low death numbers. Undoubtedly, the COVID pandemic has changed our lives for now and we still have to face significant challenges in the future.

Shopping Cart