Singapore – England has lifted almost all restrictions imposed due to the corona virus. Germany allows vaccinated people to travel without the need for quarantine. Italy hardly requires the use of masks anymore. Shopping malls are still open in Singapore.
Eighteen months after the coronavirus first appeared, governments in Asia, Europe and the Americas encourage their populations to return to their normal daily rhythms and settle into a new normal in which subways, offices, restaurants and airports are packed with people. Has happened. The mantra is heard more and more together: We must learn to live with the virus.
However, scientists warn that an exit strategy from the pandemic may be premature. The emergence of more communicable forms means that even wealthy countries where vaccines are plentiful, including the United States, remain vulnerable. Places like Australia, which have closed their borders, are realizing they can’t keep the virus out.
So instead of giving up on their roadmap, officials have begun to accept that recovery will require staggered restrictions and a lockdown. People are being encouraged to change their pandemic mindset and focus on avoiding getting seriously ill and dying rather than getting infected, which is inevitable. And countries with zero-Covid ambitions are reforming those policies.
“You have to tell people: We’re going to have a lot of cases,” said Dale Fisher, a professor of medicine at the National University of Singapore who leads the National Committee on Infection and Prevention at Singapore’s Ministry of Health. “And that’s part of the plan: We have to take it for granted.”
For months, many residents of Singapore, in that small city-state in Southeast Asia, were obsessed with the details of each new case of Covid. When the number of infections was above ten for the first time, there was a different atmosphere of fear. And with the border closed, there was a sense of defeat, as even the most diligent measures were not enough to contain the infection.
“Our people are tired of fighting,” wrote a group of ministers from Singapore. an opinion essay published in the Strait Times newspaper in June. “Everyone is asking: when and how will the pandemic end?”
Singaporean authorities announced plans to gradually ease restrictions and work out a path to contain the pandemic. Plans include targeting infections rather than focusing on monitoring how many people become seriously ill, how many require intensive care, and how many require intubation.
Some of those measures are already being tested. The outbreak has originated in several karaoke venues and a large fishing port, and on Tuesday Singapore announced it would implement tougher measures, including a ban on indoor restaurant service. Trade Minister Gan Jim Yong said the country was anyway in the right way And compared the recent sanctions to “obstacles” on the way to the finish line.
Singapore has fully vaccinated 49 percent of its population and says it takes Israel as a model, leading with 58 percent. Israel has begun to focus on serious matters, a strategy officials have called “soft repression”. He also faces hundreds of new cases every day. The country has re-imposed the mandate to wear face masks indoors.
“It’s important, but it’s quite annoying,” said 56-year-old Israeli civil servant Danny Levy, who waited to go to see a movie at the Jerusalem movie theater complex last week. Levy said he would wear a face mask inside the theatre, but it was disappointing that restrictions were being reimposed as new variants were entering the country because little testing was done and incoming passengers were not adequately monitored was.
Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said countries taking shortcuts to reopening are putting unvaccinated people at risk and risking their lives.
Baker said, “At this point in time, I actually find it quite surprising that governments decide that they know enough about how the virus behaves in populations, ‘Yeah, we’re going to live with this. ” covid eradication strategy.
New Zealanders seem to have accepted the possibility of longer-term sanctions. In Recently launched survey by the government Of the more than 1,800 people, 90 percent of the participants said they did not expect life to return to normal after vaccination, in part because of suspicions about the virus.
Scientists still don’t fully understand “long-lasting COVID,” the long-term symptoms that hundreds of thousands of previously infected patients still suffer. He says that COVID-19 should not be treated like the flu as it is much more dangerous. They are also not sure about how long immunity vaccines provide or how much they protect.
Most developing countries are also facing an increase in infections, giving the virus a greater chance to replicate rapidly, increasing the risk of further mutation and spread. According to the project, only 1 percent of people in low-income countries have received a vaccine dose. our world in data.
In the United States, where state and local governments make a lot of decisions, situations vary widely from place to place. States such as California and New York have high vaccination rates but require unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors, while others, such as Alabama and Idaho, have low vaccination rates but do not require them to wear masks. it occurs. Some schools and universities plan to require campus students to be vaccinated, but many states have prohibited public institutions from imposing such restrictions.
In Australia, several state congressmen suggested this month that the country was at a crossroads where it would have to decide between long-term restrictions and learn to live with the contagion. He said Australia probably needs to drop its zero-Covid approach and copy the world a lot.
Gladys Berejiklian, the head of the Australian state of New South Wales, immediately rejected the offer. “No state, country or country can live with the delta version when our vaccination rates are so low,” he said. Only about 11 percent of Australians over the age of 16 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also distanced himself from calls to change the country’s COVID protocol. after announcement of The four-stage plan to return to regular life on July 2 has insisted the strength of the delta version calls for an indefinite postponement.
In places where vaccines have been widely available for months, such as Europe, countries have bet heavily on their vaccination programs as the key to staving off the pandemic and keeping hospitalizations and deaths down.
Germans who have had a full vaccination program in the past six months can eat indoors in restaurants without showing a negative rapid test. They are allowed to meet in private without any restrictions and can travel without undergoing a 14-day quarantine.
In Italy, masks are only required to be worn when entering shops or busy areas, but many continue to use them as protection for the chin as well. “My daughters scold me. They say I’ve already been vaccinated and I don’t need to wear a mask, but I got used to it, ”said Marina Castro, who lives in Rome.
England, which has vaccinated almost all of its vulnerable residents, has taken a more drastic approach. On Monday, the country lifted almost all restrictions on COVID-19, even as delta-like infections continue to rise, especially among young people.
Called “Independence Day” during the tabloids, Pub, restaurants and nightclubs opened their doors wide. Limits on gatherings and demands for wearing masks were removed. People were seen sunbathing, dining together al fresco.
Without most regulations, governments are encouraging people to stay safe through “personal responsibility.” UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid – who tested positive for coronavirus last week – said last month that the country must “learn to live” with the virus. This is despite polls suggesting that English people prefer a more gradual approach to reopening.
Officials in Singapore, which on Tuesday reported an annual record 182 cases of local transmission, say the number of infections is likely to rise in the coming days. The outbreak appears to have been delayed, but not thwarted by a gradual reopening plan.
“You give people a sense of progress,” Ong Ye Kung, the head of Singapore’s health ministry, said last month, “instead of waiting for the big day when everything opens up and then you go crazy.”
Reporting contributors included Damien Cave from Sydney, Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem, Melissa Eddy from Berlin, Natasha Frost from Auckland, New Zealand, Benjamin Muller from London and Richard Perez-Pea from New York.
Sui-Li Wei is the correspondent for China. She has covered that country since 2010, focusing on health care, gender issues and demographics. @suilly