Closed borders, geographical isolation, an aggressive strategy for managing new cases, and a population willing to cooperate with the authorities. These are, in short, the elements that characterize the “Zero Covid” approach, which has been attempted in some parts of the world.
The elimination of Covid-19 from the national territory has advantages that can not be questioned, as it allows a substantial return to normalcy. But the fear of the virus is always present and it takes very little, even if only a few new cases, for some new areas to get stuck in the hope of eradicating new outbreaks.
Australia, New Zealand and Singapore initially followed this path, but then they too were forced to surrender to the coexistence scenario with the virus, and this because of the Delta variant. China, a more unique case given its large territorial size and population density, has not yet abandoned the dream of completely eradicating Covid-19 domestically, and the same can be said for the small Pacific island countries. But here is the story of those who gave up this strategy.
New Zealand is facing the Delta
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Xhakinda Ardern, accepted the end of the “Zero Covid” strategy, after a 7-week blockade could not stop a new wave of cases with the Delta variant in Auckland. Restrictions will be gradually eased in the country’s largest city, even if it means giving up the scenario to eradicate the coronavirus altogether.
New Zealand reports as of mid-August dozens of new cases a day, almost all in Auckland, and residents are outraged to the point of organizing protests against the restrictions. Ardern has therefore proposed implementing a 3-phase plan to break the deadlock, despite some troubling revelations in recent days.
New cases of Covid-19 have been identified in hospitals, or among people arrested, who have subsequently undergone tampons. The data show that the transmission of the virus throughout the community is stable, and underestimated by the current level of testing.
New Zealand’s approach to the virus was initially considered a success, with one of the lowest mortality rates in the world, and without restrictions for most of the pandemic. But this approach has weakened the effectiveness of the vaccination campaign. So far just over 50 percent of people over the age of 12 have been vaccinated. So very little to feel safe.
“This is not a sustainable way to live!” This is what Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told The Economist on August 23, highlighting a dramatic change in the country’s strategy towards Covid-19.
More than half of Australia have been in a blockade since mid-June, and Melbourne has already spent 200 days in complete closure since the pandemic began. Australia, a country that has tried to eliminate new outbreaks at all costs, will now remove most of the restrictions, as 80 per cent of the adult population has been vaccinated, and will allow new cases to be added, as long as hospitals can afford them.
More than 30,000 Australians who are abroad, and who cannot return due to the borders imposed on them, can breathe a sigh of relief. For some of them, including those infected with Covid-19 and dying in India, it is now too late.
For most of 2020, life went on as usual, with schools, restaurants, cinemas open and masks not worn.
But the Delta variant highlighted the limitations of the “Zero Covid” approach. Contact trackers find it almost impossible to prevent an infected person from transmitting the virus to their contacts. Now the network of measures against new infections is ineffective, and authorities say new cases (and deaths) will increase. But they can be kept under control by the vaccination rate of Australians, 25 per cent of whom are fully vaccinated.
Singapore wants to return to normalcy, but without abandoning concern over the spread of Covid-19. Choosing to make Covid endemic, however, can not ignore a number of conditions, and vaccines are key to controlling the situation.
The closure of the border in March 2020 was an economic catastrophe for a reality like Singapore, which as the main trade and business center in Southeast Asia, bases its development on open markets. The country is on the brink of the worst economic recession in its history, and the government has been forced to spend over $ 100 billion, or 20 percent of Gross Domestic Product, to avoid economic collapse.
Social distancing and blockages to eradicate new cases localized with Covid-19 have been implemented in parallel with travel restrictions to keep imported import cases under control.
Prudent reopening, associated with 80 percent of the population being fully vaccinated, and maintaining late-night curfews for restaurants, as well as mandatory mask use, are likely to yield benefits over a period of time. long-term, allowing economic recovery and travel of the population off the island. / (By Andrea Walton – “Il Giornale” – Bota.al)
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