Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021

CNN recently ran an article called, “5 countries that are opening up and living with Covid.” This caught my attention immediately. Which countries? I asked. Does that mean people are just walking around like it’s 2019? Open up in comparison to what? When I looked deeper, I found that just two of these are opening up with respect to the social freedoms we would all like to enjoy. Most are easing restrictions on tourism in order to boost economies badly bruised by COVID. Here are five countries on four continents in very different circumstances.

Vaccination rates from Our World in Data

So let’s look at the paths they’re taking. Because we are all drawing the map as we go.

  1. Denmark has taken a phased approach to requirements like masks and health passes for restaurants, movies, and concerts. The coronavirus has been classified as a “critical threat to society,” but this classification was allowed to expire on Sept. 10, 2021, so people do not need a health pass any more. Travel restrictions for entry, such as vaccinations, still apply. The government will respond to changing conditions if necessary. Denmark is 76% fully or partially vaccinated.
  2. Chile’s phased approach, called “paso a paso” or “step by step,” is beginning to allow festivities such as Independence Day on a smaller scale. However, according to another CNN article on Sept 14, face masking and social distancing are still required in public places and in schools. Apparently the “opening up” referred to in the Sept. 16 article refers to Chile’s new policy on reopening to fully vaccinated foreign visitors on Oct. 1. Chile’s vaccination rate is 76% fully or partially vaccinated.
  3. Singapore doesn’t sound like my idea of “opening up and living with Covid.” Masks are still required in most places. They announced relaxing restrictions on social gatherings in August, but due to a rising number of cases, the Ministry of Health has increased restrictions again on business and social gatherings. Telecommuting is required for anyone who can work from home. Everyone, whether vaccinated or not, is encouraged to self-test regularly with antigen rapid tests which are available at supermarkets and convenience stores. Visiting Singapore still requires a 14-day quarantine for almost all visitors. Singapore is 79% fully or partially vaccinated.
  4. South Africa has a five-tier level of restrictions. It has just lowered them to “an adjusted level 2.” The restrictions are eased in respect to a strict lockdown that was enacted in June. The lightened regulations include reducing the curfew, raising limits on size of gatherings, and reducing limits on alcohol sales. Vaccine passports are under discussion. Visitors to South Africa must have a negative PCR test. South Africa is 19% fully or partially vaccinated.
  5. Thailand has made it easier for foreigners to visit popular tourist destinations, but still has restrictions on everyday life. For example, schools are expected to open up in November, but will require a “school pass” for students, teachers, and staff, which will show test results, vaccination records, and medical history for COVID. 85% of teachers and staff must be vaccinated for a school to open. For tourists, however, October 1 is the opening date, the day when fully vaccinated travelers can visit popular destinations without quarantine. Thailand is 41% fully or partially vaccinated.

If the pandemic had ended in a couple of months, as some thought it would back in March 2020, we would have gone right back to the life we once called “normal,” grumbling a bit about the interruption. But now that it’s been eighteen months, people have adjusted to new ways of doing things. Some that they want to keep and some that they don’t. But one thing is for sure: we will never see 2019 again.

This will be a year of finding balance as we negotiate new ways to organize healthcare, education, entertainment, travel, and the workplace in an uncertain future.

Today’s Notable Headlines:

“Here are 5 countries that are opening up and living with Covid,” CNN, Sept. 16, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/16/world/covid-countries-opening-up-cmd-intl/index.html

“Denmark to scrap all coronavirus restrictions as it declares COVID-19 ‘under control,” Aug. 30, 2021. Fortune. https://fortune.com/2021/08/30/denmark-to-scrap-all-coronavirus-restrictions-as-it-declares-covid-19-under-control/

“Chile holds subdued Independence Day festivities,” La Prensa Latina Media, Sept. 17, 2021. https://www.laprensalatina.com/chile-holds-subdued-independence-day-festivities/

“Chile overcame the Delta variant. Now it’s racing to vaccinate kids,” CNN, Sept. 14, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/14/americas/chile-covid-19-vaccine-children-intl-latam/index.html

“People should limit themselves to one social gathering a day; similar workplace interactions must cease from Sep 8: MOH,” CNA, Sept. 5, 2021. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/singapore/covid-19-one-social-gathering-day-workplace-interactions-stop-2159361

“South Africa loosens COVID curbs as third wave eases,” Reuters, Sept. 12, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/south-africas-president-loosens-covid-19-curbs-shortens-curfew-2021-09-12/

“These five places in Thailand will soon be quarantine-free for vaccinated travellers,” Euro News, Sept. 16, 2021. https://www.euronews.com/travel/2021/09/16/these-five-places-in-thailand-will-soon-be-quarantine-free-for-vaccinated-travellers

“Back to school: Thailand prepares to resume classes with strict COVID-19 measures,” CNA, Sept. 14, 2021. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/asia/thailand-schools-reopening-covid-19-measures-2176271

Additional sources:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations, Our World in Data, Sept. 18, 2021. Updated daily. https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

SINGAPORE 14 DAY QUARANTINE REQUIREMENT, iVisa.com, Sept.13, 2021. https://www.ivisa.com/singapore-blog/singapore-14-day-quarantine-requirement

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. I intend to journal the pandemic experience from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, as a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary world crisis.

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