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Living with Covid: Five countries that have decided it’s time to open up

Living with Covid: Five countries that have decided it’s time to open up

Some have enviable vaccination rates; others have decided that the cost of continued economic and social constraints outweighs the benefits.

Here are five nations that need to keep a close eye on how their new strategies unfold.

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

Danes can now enter nightclubs and restaurants without showing a “Covid passport”, use public transport without wearing face clothing and meet in large numbers without restrictions – essentially returning to life before the pandemic.

The key to Denmark’s success lies in part in its spread of vaccinations: as of September 13, over 74% of Denmark’s population was fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to Our World in Data.

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

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

Despite such optimism, Heunicke sounded a warning last month when the government announced the planned end date for restrictions. “Even though we are in a good place right now, we are not out of the epidemic. And the government will not hesitate to act quickly if the pandemic again threatens important functions in our society,” he said.

Covid-19 cases were reported daily

Singapore: Trying to live with Covid, but Delta does not help

The Singapore government announced in June that it planned to move towards a Covid strategy – trying to control vaccine outbreaks and monitor hospitalizations rather than restricting citizens’ lives.

“The bad news is that Covid-19 may never disappear. The good news is that it is possible to live normally with it in our midst,” Singapore’s top Covid-19 officials wrote in a statement at the time.

Authorities began easing some restrictions in August so that fully vaccinated people could eat at restaurants and gather in groups of five, up from two.

But an increase in cases caused by the highly contagious Delta variant has put this strategy under pressure, prompting officials to stop further reopening. Officials warned last week that they might have to reintroduce Covid-19 restrictions if the new outbreak was not restricted.
A woman wearing a mask and gloves takes pictures in Singapore Bay on August 1, 2021.

Singapore’s Covid-19 task force said it would try to limit the outbreak through more aggressive contact tracking, “ring-fencing” cases and clusters and more frequent mandatory testing for high-risk workers.

Despite such measures, Singapore on Tuesday reported its highest number of covid-19 cases in one day in more than a year. So far, the number of people becoming 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 were reported daily

Thailand: Slow vaccination, but it opens anyway

Thailand plans to reopen Bangkok and other popular destinations for foreign visitors next month, officials said last week as the Southeast Asian nation tries to revive its vital tourism industry despite rising numbers of infections.

Under the expanded program, tourists who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and commit to a test regime will be allowed to enter 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.

Phuket Island reopened to vaccinated foreign visitors on July 1 without quarantine requirements. On July 15, the country launched a similar program on the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao, called “Samui Plus.”

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

Vaccination rates are lagging behind some neighbors. Nearly 18% of the Thai population was fully vaccinated against Covid-19 on September 13, according to Our World in Data, with a further 21% partially vaccinated.

Covid-19 cases were reported daily

South Africa: Lighter restrictions, but Delta is still a threat

South Africa has begun easing more Covid-19 restrictions as the rate of infection in the country declines.

Among other measures, the nationwide night ban has been shortened to 11pm until 4am, 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 at a market in the Central Business District of Pretoria, South Africa, on September 14, 2021.
The easing of restrictions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday is remarkable in a country that has endured much of the pandemic with extremely strict social distancing rules, and even bans all gatherings except for funerals – and where vaccination rates are still low.

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

He urged everyone to be vaccinated and comply with the remaining restrictions to allow the country to return to normal.

“The third wave is not over yet, and it is only through our actions individually and collectively that we will be able to reduce the number of new infections,” he said.

Covid-19 cases were reported daily

Chile: High vaccination rates mean tourists can return

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

The country has already begun distributing booster shots to those who are fully vaccinated. The health authorities on Thursday approved the use of the Chinese vaccine Sinovac for children aged six years and over; grafting started Monday.

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

Foreign non-residents will be able to enter provided they meet certain requirements and are isolated for five days on arrival.

“The fact that foreign tourists can come to Chile is an important step in the recovery of incoming tourism,” said Tourism Deputy Minister José Luis Uriarte. “It is important to point out that this is the first step and we will be able to move forward as long as we maintain the right health conditions.”

Covid-19 cases were reported daily

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

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