Countries in Asia-Pacific Shift Strategies To ‘Coexist With COVID’

By Shawn Lin
Shawn Lin
Shawn Lin
Shawn Lin is a Chinese expatriate living in New Zealand. He has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2009, with a focus on China-related topics.
October 7, 2021 Updated: October 7, 2021

News Analysis

In the past month, countries in the Asia-Pacific region have shifted their strategies to coexist with the CCP virus rather than eliminating it.

Governments worldwide generally have two strategies towards the pandemic, “zero COVID” or “coexist with COVID.”

However, the Delta variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus has a faster and stronger transmission ability than the original strain, which significantly increases the cost of eliminating the virus in countries. Under economic pressure and difficult trade-offs in response to the pandemic, many governments have gradually opted for “mitigation (coexist with COVID)” rather than “elimination (zero COVID).”

New Zealand: Zero COVID No Longer a Goal

On Oct. 4, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference in Wellington that New Zealand would gradually cancel the zero COVID strategies that it has adhered to before. Instead, it will increase the vaccination rate and try to coexist with COVID.

The outbreak in New Zealand began in mid-August, and a level 4 lockdown started on Aug. 18. Although the pandemic has eased and the lockdown level has been downgraded, there are still new cases every day. About 20 people have been infected every day in the past few weeks, and it seems difficult to completely clear the virus.

At the same time, the New Zealand economy under the lockdowns has shrunk severely. Auckland Council Chief Economist Shane Martin once stated that Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, lost $68.97 million a day under the Level 4 lockdown.

The policy change in New Zealand is very drastic. In an interview with local media on Sept. 30, COVID response minister Chris Hipkins insisted that the government would not abandon the virus elimination policy. However, he did not expect an abrupt U-turn on this policy only four days later.

Australia: The Goal is to Coexist with the CCP Virus

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Oct. 1 announced an 18-month ban on Australians traveling abroad would be lifted from next month, easing one of the toughest COVID-19 restrictions imposed globally.

The Australian government announced plans to end its lockdowns when the vaccination rate reached 70 percent and reopen its borders to international travelers when 80 percent is reached.

“[Our goal is] to live with this virus, not to live in fear of it,” Morrison stated on Aug. 23.

Australia passed city lockdowns, border closures, and strict sanitation measures last year. The pandemic seemed to have eased then. However, in recent months, the governors of Victoria and New South Wales, the two major states, have admitted that they cannot eradicate the Delta variant of the CCP virus and have instead turned their focus to mass vaccination.

As of Oct. 7, Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, has been under lockdown for 248 days, making it the city with the longest lockdown in the world.

South Korea: Easing Pandemic Measures in Phases to ‘Living with COVID’

The South Korean government announced on Oct. 1 that it would implement protocols in phases to gradually ease restrictions, transforming its current pandemic prevention model into a “living with COVID” model starting November so that the people can restore everyday life and order. The Korean government has extended the current social distancing measures by two weeks in preparation for the transformation.

Among South Korea’s 52 million population, about 77 percent have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and about 50 percent have completed two doses. Since July, a new wave of the pandemic in South Korea has been building with more than 1,000 daily confirmed cases and exceeded 3,000 daily cases after its Mid-Autumn Festival on Sept. 21.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum stated that the government would formally prepare to restore people’s daily lives after the two-dose vaccination rate exceeds 70 percent this month.

Thailand: Residents Must Be Prepared for Reopening and Living with the Virus

On Sept. 27, the Thai government announced plans to open most of the country in the next three months and approved a four-stage opening timetable, prioritizing opening up popular tourist areas, including Bangkok.

The Thai government agreed to halve the mandatory quarantine period for fully vaccinated tourists to 7 days starting in October. Beginning in November, Bangkok and nine other districts would be exempted from mandatory quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated tourists. Thailand is trying to increase the immunization rate and revitalize its hard-hit tourism industry.

Thailand also approved the reopening of various businesses and services, including theaters, stadiums, and nail salons, starting Oct. 1.

On Aug. 23, Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of Thailand’s Department of Disease Control, stated that Thailand’s National Communicable Disease Committee had approved the country’s strategy to learn to “live with [the CCP virus].” The focus in the future will be to control the number of infections to a level that does not exceed the capacity of Thailand’s public health system.

Malaysia: Coexist with the CCP Virus with Herd Immunity

As of Sept. 21, 80 percent of adults in Malaysia have been fully vaccinated. Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that Malaysia had reached the level of “herd immunity.” He declared in early September that Malaysia should be prepared to coexist with the CCP virus.

The Malaysian government emphasized that once the country downgrades the CCP virus outbreak from a “pandemic” to “endemic,” all Malaysians must “coexist with the virus.” However, this does not mean that Malaysians can relax in the CCP virus prevention; they still must comply with relevant prevention requirements.

Indonesia: Treating the CCP virus As an ‘Endemic Disease’

On Sept. 10, Indonesian President Joko Widodo suggested that the pandemic will not disappear in the near future, and Indonesians must be prepared to coexist with the CCP virus.

“We should prepare for the transition of [the CCP virus] from a pandemic to an endemic disease,” the presidential website of Indonesia quoted Joko.

Indonesia has accumulated approximately 4.22 million confirmed cases of the CCP virus thus far, and 142,000 people have died. Until now, more than 53.7 million people in Indonesia have been fully vaccinated, accounting for less than 20 percent of the country’s population.

Vietnam: Prepare to Adapt Cautiously with the CCP Virus

On Sept. 5, Vietnamese Prime Minister Fan Myung Tseng stated that once Vietnam achieves its vaccination goals, it is prepared to carefully adapt to “coexisting with [the CCP virus].”

After nearly three months of lockdown, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city with a population of 8.4 million, lifted its lockdown measures on the evening of Sept. 30, allowing more commercial and social activities.

During the lockdown, many local factories were closed, and some foreign business groups issued warnings that long-term lockdowns might cause them to move their businesses to other countries.

According to Vietnam’s Ministry of Health, the Delta variant of the CCP virus infected 770,000 people in the country in the past three months and caused 19,000 deaths, most of them in Ho Chi Minh City.

At present, the commonly accepted vaccination rate that forms herd immunity is 70 percent, which has also become a reference for governments worldwide to formulate policies.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and countries in the European Union have mostly adopted the strategy of “coexisting with COVID.” However, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China still adhere to the “zero COVID” strategy, with Taiwan having the greatest success all around.

Taiwan: A Global Success Story of ‘Zero COVID’

Taiwan is widely regarded as a global success story as it has consistently achieved zero domestic COVID cases throughout most of the pandemic with rare outbreaks. With its 23.57 million population and high population density, Taiwan’s residents lived a largely normal life without lockdown measures for most of 2020 and early 2021, albeit with closed borders.

In late August, Taiwan once again reported zero domestic cases of COVID for the first time since a rare outbreak that began in May. And it has been mostly zero domestic cases until today.

Taiwan also has one of the lowest COVID vaccination rates in the world, with only 15.3 percent of residents fully vaccinated as of Oct. 6 and nearly zero percent of its population were fully vaccinated before July of this year.

Shawn Lin
Shawn Lin is a Chinese expatriate living in New Zealand. He has contributed to The Epoch Times since 2009, with a focus on China-related topics.