More than 18 months have passed since Covid-19 appeared and tormented the whole world, even right now. But even so, there are still some countries that decide it’s time to open up and pilot the model of a new normal, called “living with Covid”.
Each country carries different stories. Some places rely on high vaccination rates, others see it as a trade-off, between the economic benefits of opening up and the risk of the virus.
Denmark – Covid is no longer a threat
On September 10, the Danish government announced the lifting of all restrictions related to Covid-19 nationwide. They also affirmed that Covid-19 “no longer poses a serious threat to society”.
With this decision, nightclubs and restaurants in Denmark can also operate at full capacity without the need for guests to present a “Covid green card” – or a “Covid passport”. People can also use public transport without wearing a mask, and gather in large numbers without limit. In general, it is almost back to the time before the epidemic.
The reason behind this decision lies in Denmark’s successful vaccination campaign. As of September 13, more than 74% of the Danish population was fully vaccinated, according to data from Our World in Data.
Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said on September 15 that the current infection rate (R index) in Denmark is only 0.7 – meaning that 1 patient can infect less than 1 person, showing that disease has been controlled. If R is greater than 1, the number of Covid cases is predicted to increase in the near future. Conversely, if it is less than 1, the number of infections is expected to decrease.
Diagram of daily infections in Denmark
“Vaccines and the efforts of the Danes over the years are the foundation for this success,” – Heunicke commented.
But despite his optimism, Heunicke remains wary of the decision to lift all restrictions. “While we are in a pretty good position, the epidemic is not over. It is important that the government does not hesitate to act if the pandemic becomes a threat to the community in the future.”
Singapore: Attempts to live together may fail because of Delta
In June 2021, the Singapore government announced that the country was moving towards a strategy of living with Covid, through controlling the epidemic with vaccines and monitoring hospital admissions, instead of using restrictive regulations.
“The bad news is that Covid-19 may never go away. The good news is that it is possible to live with it,” – Singapore officials said.
After that, the government gradually lifted restrictions in August, allowing fully vaccinated people to dine in restaurants and gather in groups of less than 5 people (previously 2). However, the recent increase in infections due to the Delta mutation has put this strategy in jeopardy, forcing the suspension of the reopening plan.
Over the weekend, Singaporean officials even had to warn that they might have to re-impose restrictive measures if the new outbreak is out of control.
Chart of daily infections in Singapore
Singapore’s anti-Covid-19 force said it was trying to limit the spread of the disease by actively tracing and zoning off small outbreaks, and at the same time forcing high-risk workers. must be tested periodically. However, on September 14, Singapore witnessed the highest number of daily infections in more than a year. Fortunately, the number of people with severe symptoms remains low thanks to widespread vaccine coverage.
Previously, Singapore, which pursued a “Zero Covid” strategy before changing its approach, is now home to the world’s top vaccination rate – up to 81% of the population.
Thailand: Slow injection but… never mind, keep the door open
Thailand plans to reopen Bangkok and other popular tourist destinations to foreign tourists in October, according to an announcement by the authorities a week ago. This is seen as an attempt to revive their key tourism industry, despite the increasing number of infections.
Koh Samui Island has been open to fully vaccinated tourists since July 1
Under this plan, visitors who are vaccinated with 2 doses of the vaccine and commit to comply with the testing regulations will be allowed to enter Bangkok, Hua Hin, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.
Previously, Phuket Island also opened its doors to tourists with full vaccinations from July 1 without needing to be quarantined. On July 15, the same policy was applied to the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao.
Chart of daily infections in Thailand
But Thailand’s epidemic situation is not very bright. Although they have been very successful in keeping the number of infections low in 2020, they are currently having difficulty controlling the disease. Vaccination rates are also lagging behind in neighboring countries, with only 18% of residents fully vaccinated as of September 13, and 21% receiving a single shot.
South Africa: Lifting restrictions despite Delta’s threat
After the number of infections dropped, South Africa began to gradually lift some restrictions. In particular, the curfew time was shortened to only from 11pm to 4am. The number of people that can be gathered is also increased – 240 indoors and 500 outdoors. Restrictions on the sale of alcohol were also lifted.
The decision was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on September 12. This is a very remarkable announcement, as South Africa has experienced most of the epidemic with the strictest lockdown orders, where all gatherings are banned except for limited numbers at funerals, while vaccination rates are only low.
For now, Mr. Ramaphosa warns that the third wave of infections caused by the Delta mutation is not over yet, but insists that there is enough vaccine to vaccinate all adults. Currently, more than a quarter have received at least one injection.
Chart of daily infections in South Africa
He also urged all people to get vaccinated, and at the same time comply with the remaining restrictions to ensure a return to normal as soon as possible.
“The third wave is not over yet, and it takes individual action to reduce the number of infections,” – he called.
Chile: Comfortable thanks to the vaccine, tourists can come
Chile is one of the countries that is internationally acclaimed for its smooth and successful vaccination campaign. According to health ministry statistics, 87% of eligible Chileans are fully vaccinated.
Chile has even started distributing a third booster shot to those who have had enough. Health officials on September 16 approved the use of Sinovac vaccine from China for children over 6 years old, starting from September 20.
Despite the threat from the Delta mutation, the Chilean government on September 15 still announced that it would move to open international tourism from October 1, just in time for summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Accordingly, foreign visitors will be allowed to enter if they meet all regulations – such as being vaccinated and isolated for 5 days.
Chart of daily infections in Chile
“The ability of international tourists to come to Chile is an important step in revitalizing the tourism industry,” – quoted Tourism Minister José Luis Uriarte. “It should also be emphasized that this is only the first step.”