Living with Covid: five countries that decided it was time to open up

Some have enviable vaccination rates; others have decided that the costs of continued economic and social restrictions outweigh the benefits.

Here are five nations to watch closely for how their new strategies play out.

The Danish government lifted all remaining coronavirus restrictions in the country on September 10, saying Covid-19 was no longer “a disease that poses a critical threat to society.”

Danes can now enter nightclubs and restaurants without presenting a ‘Covid passport’, use public transport without wearing face coverings and meet in large numbers without restrictions – essentially reverting to pre-life life. pandemic.

Part of the key to Denmark’s success lies in its roll-out of vaccination: as of September 13, more than 74% of the Danish population was fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to Our World in Data.

The transmission rate, or R rate, currently stands at 0.7, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke tweeted on Wednesday, meaning the epidemic continues to decline. If it is above 1.0, the cases of Covid-19 will increase in the near future. If it is less than 1.0, the cases will decrease in the near future.

“Vaccines and all the citizens in Denmark’s great efforts over a long period of time are the basis for us to do so well,” Heunicke said.

Despite such optimism, Heunicke issued a note of caution last month when the government announced the expected end date of the restrictions. “Even if we are well placed at the moment, we are not out of the epidemic. And the government will not hesitate to act quickly if the pandemic again threatens important functions of our society,” he said. declared.

Covid-19 cases reported daily

Singapore: tries to live with Covid, but Delta is not helping

The Singapore government announced in June that it plans to move to a life strategy with Covid – trying to control outbreaks with vaccines and monitor hospitalizations rather than restricting the lives of citizens.

“The bad news is that Covid-19 may never go away. The good news is that it is possible to live normally with it among us,” Singapore’s top Covid-19 officials wrote in an editorial at the time.

Authorities began easing some restrictions in August, allowing fully vaccinated people to dine in restaurants and gather in groups of five, up from two previously.

But an increase in cases caused by the highly infectious Delta variant has strained that strategy, leading officials to suspend reopening. Officials warned last week that they may have to reimpose Covid-19 restrictions if the new outbreak is not contained.
A woman wearing a mask and gloves takes photos at Marina Bay in Singapore on August 1, 2021.

Singapore’s Covid-19 task force said it will try to limit the outbreak through more aggressive contact tracing, ‘entrenchment’ cases and clusters, and more frequent mandatory testing for high-risk workers .

Despite such measures, Singapore on Tuesday reported its highest total of one-day Covid-19 cases in more than a year. So far, the number of people falling seriously ill remains low thanks to vaccination, authorities said.

Singapore pursued an aggressive “zero-Covid strategy” before changing its approach, and has one of the highest Covid-19 vaccination rates in the world, with 81% of the population fully vaccinated.

Covid-19 cases reported daily

Thailand: vaccination is slow but it opens anyway

Thailand plans to reopen Bangkok and other popular destinations to overseas visitors next month, officials said last week, as the Southeast Asian nation tries to revive its crucial tourism industry despite the increase in traffic. number of infections.

As part of the expanded program, tourists fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and engaging in a testing regime will be allowed into the capital, Hua Hin, Pattaya and Chiang Mai, according to Reuters.

A monk walks through an almost empty Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai, Thailand on September 9, 2021.

The island of Phuket reopened its doors to foreign visitors vaccinated on July 1 without a quarantine requirement. On July 15, the country launched a similar program on the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao, dubbed “Samui Plus”.

Although it has kept the number of infections low in 2020 thanks to successful containment measures, Thailand has struggled to control cases this year.

Immunization rates are lagging behind those of some neighbors. Just under 18% of the Thai population was fully vaccinated against Covid-19 as of September 13, according to Our World in Data, with an additional 21% partially vaccinated.

Covid-19 cases reported daily

South Africa: restrictions eased, but Delta remains a threat

South Africa has started to ease several restrictions related to Covid-19 as infection rates decline in the country.

Among other measures, the nationwide nighttime curfew has been reduced to 11 p.m. until 4 a.m., the size of permitted gatherings has been increased to 250 people indoors and 500 outdoors, and restrictions on alcohol sales have been further reduced.

Shoppers in a market in the central business district of Pretoria, South Africa, September 14, 2021.
The easing of restrictions, announced Sunday by President Cyril Ramaphosa, is notable in a country that has passed much of the pandemic with extremely strict social distancing rules, sometimes even banning all gatherings except funerals – and where vaccination rates remain low.

Ramaphosa warned that a devastating third wave of infections caused by the more transmissible Delta variant was not over, but added that the country now has enough doses of the vaccine to cover the entire adult population. , with more than a quarter of adults receiving at least one dose.

He encouraged everyone to get vaccinated and comply with the remaining restrictions to allow the country to return to normal.

“The third wave is not yet over, and it is only through our individual and collective actions that we can reduce the number of new infections,” he said.

Covid-19 cases reported daily

Chile: High vaccination rates mean tourists can come back

Chile has been praised internationally for its smooth and successful vaccination campaign. According to the latest reports from the Ministry of Health, nearly 87% of eligible Chileans are fully vaccinated.

The country has already started distributing boosters to those who are fully immunized. Health officials on Thursday approved the use of China’s Sinovac vaccine for children six years and older; inoculations started on Monday.

Despite the threat posed by the Delta variant, the government on Wednesday announced measures to reopen the country to international tourism from October 1, just in time for the southern hemisphere nation’s summer season.

Non-resident foreigners will be able to enter provided they meet certain conditions and isolate themselves for five days upon arrival.

“The fact that foreign tourists can come to Chile is an important step for the resumption of inbound tourism,” said Under Secretary of Tourism José Luis Uriarte. “It is important to stress that this is the first step, and we can continue to move forward as long as we maintain good health conditions.”

Covid-19 cases reported daily

CNN’s Ben Westcott, David McKenzie, Henrik Petterssen and Jack Guy contributed to this report.

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