To deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, several countries, particularly in Southeast Asia and Oceania, have pursued an aggressive health policy aimed at eradicating the virus from their territory. A strategy which initially proved to be profitable but which was then undermined by more contagious variants, justifying the abandonment of this so-called “zero Covid” policy.
► Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, the irreducible
Since March 2020, China has not deviated from its strategy: for great evils, great remedies. As soon as an epidemic outbreak appears, the authorities impose harsh and sometimes very long confinements, such as the one lifted on January 24 in the city of Xian, populated by 13 million inhabitants, more than a month after its implementation. square. The virus will only have infected 2,000 people in the former imperial capital.
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In the bosom of China, Hong Kong, and its pro-Beijing government, is also continuing its aggressive health policy to limit contamination. But in the former British colony, the Omicron variant “dealed a heavy blow (…) and exceeded the city’s management capacity”, recognized Sunday, February 13 the head of government, Carrie Lam. The hospital system is overwhelmed by the influx of people infected with the virus, because in Hong Kong even the asymptomatic are forced to go through the hospital. And 90% of the city’s intensive care beds are occupied.
Finally, the neighboring island of Taiwan is maintaining the “zero Covid” course, although the Omicron variant raises some questions. Enforcement there, however, has never been as stringent as its neighbours, with authorities preferring to rely on contact tracing and tracing, rather than the strict lockdown in force in China.
► Australia, New Zealand: opening since the arrival of vaccines
The two island states have had geography as an ally in their “zero Covid” strategy. Taking advantage of the ease of closing their borders, the two countries implemented, from March 2020, brief and localized confinements to “break” the formation of outbreaks of contamination, while the vaccines were developed. The two Oceanian neighbors have also relied on tracing policies in order to – successfully – prevent the spread of the virus.
Australia and New Zealand have been gradually reopening their borders and easing restrictions since late last year when vaccination rates were deemed high enough. But the appearance of the Omicron variant coupled with the easing of restrictions has resulted in a record number of cases, observed in New Zealand, which recorded 1,796 new infections on Sunday February 13.
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“We are entering for the first time since the epidemic began two years ago, in a period when New Zealanders will see more covid in the community”said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday, February 14, without announcing the tightening of health rules.
► Vietnam, an abandonment to save the economy
As soon as the pandemic emerged, Vietnam adopted a very harsh approach to avoid a health catastrophe, going through the elimination of epidemic foci one by one. Except that the Delta variant, more contagious than the original strain, changed the game. In July 2021, despite significant restrictions and the use of the army to enforce them (especially in the capital Ho Chi Minh City), the number of deaths exploded.
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Above all, the Vietnamese economy sank. The growth of the country of the Dragon, one of the most dynamic in the last three decades, fell from 7% to 2% between 2019 and 2021. “We cannot resort to quarantine and confinement measures forever, as this would cause hardship for the population and the economy”acted Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, in October 2021.
► In Singapore, focus on vaccines
With more than 85% of its population vaccinated, the Asian city-state has gradually loosened the constraints that weighed on the population. Last year, the “zero Covid” strategy did not allow the authorities to contain the outbreak of contamination, prompting the task force, in charge of the fight against the disease to come out in favor of a coexistence with the virus. The country has reopened to travelers from around fifteen countries, despite the strong growth of the Omicron variant in recent weeks.