Criteria for countries to live with Covid-19

High vaccine coverage and low hospitalizations are the two most important factors for countries to consider living with Covid-19.

On July 26, the co-chair of the inter-ministerial task force against Covid-19 of Singapore Gan Kim Yong stated that all restrictions in response to the pandemic could be lifted if the country reaches “a truly endemic state”.

Endemicity is demonstrated by broad vaccine coverage and low rates of severe Covid-19 patients, although new clusters still emerge over time, he explained.

Then, from August 10, Singapore began easing restrictive measures in what officials called a “preparatory step” for life in the new normal.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the preparation phase is when authorities make important adjustments to health care procedures as well as rules on social activities and travel to be ready. bringing Singapore into a state of living with Covid-19.

People exercise at a park in Singapore on June 3.  Photo: Channel News Asia.

People exercise at a park in Singapore on June 3. Photo: Channel News Asia.

Minister Ong then said this phase would last about a month, until early September, when about 80% of Singapore’s population is expected to be fully vaccinated.

“And by then, if we can still control the number of severe cases and our health system is not overwhelmed, we will move to the next phase, called Transition Step A,” he said. good. “We will open up our economy, social activities and tourism more. Then our lives will become more normal, our livelihoods will be better protected. But in doing this, we We have to accept the increased number of infections.”

But by early September, as the number of cases increased, Transition A had not taken place.

On September 3, co-chair of the inter-ministerial task force against Covid-19 Lawrence Wong announced that the current restrictive measures have not been eased while the authorities monitor the epidemic situation.

Singapore on the same day recorded 216 community infections, in the context of a number of new outbreaks.

“We do not intend to make any opening moves at this time, because there is a lag between the onset of infection and when the disease becomes severe. We would like to take a moment to follow up. monitor the situation,” Wong said.

However, he added that there is no need to tighten restrictions because Singapore already has a wide vaccine coverage rate and is starting to live with Covid-19.

“In fact, tightening restrictions will only be used as a last resort to prevent our health system from being overwhelmed,” Wong said.

A few days later, Singapore’s Health Minister on September 6 called on people to limit mass gatherings and ban social interaction at work. Chairman Wong on the same day noted that authorities will not rule out the possibility of re-imposing a state of high alert or blockade if the number of severe Covid-19 cases requiring intensive care and oxygen breathing increases sharply.

“As I said last week, these are last resort measures and we will do our best not to resort to them, but we should not eliminate them altogether,” he stressed.

While Singapore is taking cautious steps on the journey of living with Covid-19, some countries have completely removed blockade measures as well as loosened many anti-epidemic restrictions.

The experience of each country shows that the path to the goal of normal coexistence with Covid-19 is not the same.

Israel, one of the countries with the highest vaccination rates in the world, began easing restrictive measures in early February, in the first phase of the process of returning to normal life.

Accordingly, people can go to shopping centers and tourist attractions such as zoos, although some facilities such as gyms, hotels or synagogues still require the presentation of vaccination certificates or “green cards”. ” to enter the door.

By June 1, when the number of Covid-19 cases fell below 20 cases a day, Israel stopped applying the green card system and lifted restrictions on the size of gatherings.

“The Israeli economy and people will have more room to breathe,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said at the time, but warned that restrictions would be reimposed if the situation changed.

A child returns to school after a summer break at Azazim Primary School in Tel Aviv, Israel, September 1.  Photo: Reuters.

A child returns to school after a summer break at Azazim Primary School in Tel Aviv, Israel, September 1. Photo: Reuters.

On June 15, Israel dropped the requirement to wear masks in public spaces on the grounds that more than half of its 9.3 million population had been vaccinated.

But 10 days later, authorities had to re-impose the requirement to wear masks indoors when Israel recorded more than 100 new cases of Covid-19 after days of reporting no cases earlier this month.

“We are seeing the number double in just a few days,” said the leader of the Israeli government’s Covid-19 response task force, Nachman Ash. “What’s worrying is that the range of infection is spreading.”

On July 23, Israel announced its plan to re-impose the green card system when the epidemic situation worsened because of the Delta mutation. At the same time, the authorities also launched a booster vaccination program for the elderly.

These measures are part of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s policy of “soft suppression” to combat Covid-19, which encourages Israelis to learn to live with the virus by imposing the least restrictive measures possible and avoid the fourth blockade so as not to cause further damage to the economy.

On July 31, hundreds of Israelis protested in Tel Aviv against restrictions and vaccines as the number of infections and hospitalizations rose to levels not seen in months.

By August 19, the national Covid-19 response commissioner Salman Zarka warned that the rate of virus infections was increasing day by day and for the next two weeks before the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah celebration on 6// 9 is “extremely interesting”.

If the situation does not improve, “we will have to blockade like the first and second outbreaks”, she said.

However, Prime Minister Bennett said that continuing the blockade would destroy the future of Israel. “Blockade is the last resort, only when all options are exhausted,” he stressed.

On August 31, Israel recorded a record of nearly 11,000 new Covid cases. The previous high was on January 18 with 10,118 cases.

South KoreaThe country, hailed as a successful anti-epidemic example, has planned to allow the restriction of group gatherings from 4 to 6 people, and at the same time to extend the operating hours of restaurants and other establishments. Indoor sports from 1/7.

Social distancing rules were relaxed in July, including the removal of the requirement to wear face masks outdoors for people who have had a dose of the vaccine.

The move comes as South Korea has vaccinated 29% of its population and is on track to hit its target of 70% by September. The daily number of new infections has also remained below 600 for more than a week.

A street in Seoul, South Korea, on July 12.  Photo: Reuters.

A street in Seoul, South Korea, on July 12. Photo: Reuters.

“The new social balance system is an attempt to find a compromise between isolation and resumption of daily life while the Covid-19 pandemic persists,” said South Korean Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol. televised speech.

But on July 4, authorities had to withdraw their decision to relax the regulation on wearing masks in the capital Seoul and its metropolitan area after recording a spike in infections due to the Delta strain, mainly in people over 20, 30 years old.

After that, infections increased to a daily average of 531.3 people, 46% higher than a week earlier.

On July 7, President Moon Jae-in called for swift action to prevent an outbreak as South Korea reported its highest number of infections in six months with 1,212 cases.

The government had to delay a plan to ease restrictions while Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum warned that control measures in Seoul and some surrounding areas could be raised to level 4 if the situation does not improve.

Authorities then raised the restriction to the highest level in Seoul and surrounding areas for two weeks from July 12, after the number of new infections increased to a record two days in a row, although there was no sign of an increase. significant hospitalizations or deaths.

At level 4 restrictions, people are advised to stay at home as much as possible, schools must be closed, public meetings are limited to two people and take place after 6pm. Protests and other events are also banned.

On July 25, the government announced it would raise restrictions to level 4 across most of the country that week, warning that the worst Covid-19 wave ever could spread further during the summer break.

South Korea has so far maintained strict control measures. Prime Minister Kim on September 3 announced that level 4 restrictions will continue to be applied in the Seoul metropolitan area for another month.

South Korean health officials on September 8 said they are still making plans to live more normally with Covid-19. They expect 80% of the adult population to be fully vaccinated by the end of October, and this is the premise leading to the goal of living with Covid-19.

While, Brother from July 19 to the final stage in the process of easing Covid-19 control measures, removing almost all restrictions on social contact. The country places no restrictions on the number of people participating in meetings or events. Nightclubs reopened and masks are only recommended in some locations, not required.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson still noted that this process must be done with caution, and warned that the pandemic was not over. Some scientists forecast that the number of UK infections, then around 50,000 cases/day, could reach 200,000 cases/day by the end of summer.

But with more than 68% of the UK adult population fully vaccinated, the models show that rates of hospitalization or severe illness and death are still significantly lower than during previous peaks.

British Labor Party leader Keir Starmer said “reckless freedom” risked pushing the country back to the starting line. But Prime Minister Johnson insisted it was “the right time” to move to the final stage, expressing hope the roadmap would “not be changed”.

“If we don’t do it now, we wonder when?” he said in a video posted on Twitter. “But we have to be cautious. We must always remember that the virus is still out there. As the number of cases is increasing, we can see how highly contagious the Delta variant is.”

By September 7, following in the footsteps of England, Scotland and Wales also lifted most of the restrictions. Northern Ireland began to relax on September 10, but measures such as keeping physical distance in enclosed spaces, wearing masks in some public places or working from home if possible are expected to remain in place.

Although the UK’s daily Covid-19 cases decreased at the end of July, they are recently increasing again, with more than 37,000 new cases recorded on September 7, mainly due to the Delta mutation.

However, daily deaths from Covid-19 in the UK remain low, with a 7-day average of 135 cases. However, the number of hospitalized patients is on an increasing trend.

Scientists advising the British government warn that mask wearing regulations and other restrictive measures can completely be applied again if the number of hospital admissions because of Covid-19 in the UK increases higher than predicted. .

iNews on September 7 reported that the government is planning a partial blockade in October, including extending the time off from school, in case the hospital system is overloaded because of a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases. . However, the UK Education Department later denied the information, stressing that the government “has absolutely no intention of a blockade or precaution in mid-October”.

Vu Hoang (Follow Channel News Asia)

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