Countries walk fine line in easing COVID-19 restrictions

Delta (B1617.2) variant transmission is complicating plans for easing COVID-19 restrictions in some Asian nations, including Singapore and South Korea, countries that have won praise for their containment efforts over the past pandemic months.

Korea, Singapore hit brakes on reopening

South Korea's daily total topped 3,000 for the first time a few days ago, a rise officials said was triggered by people returning from a 3-day holiday period, according to Reuters. South Korea was one of the first countries outside China after SARS-CoV-2 emerged, and the country is experiencing a spike in its fourth surge.

The Seoul area is currently the hot spot, making up more than 75% of the latest infections.

Today, the South Korea's health ministry said it would keep social distancing measures in place for 4 more weeks, maintaining them at the highest level for the greater Seoul area.

In Singapore, officials yesterday reported nearly 2,000 cases, marking a daily record high, according to Reuters. The country recently saw cases rise as restrictions were loosened, but a few days ago, the health ministry tightened them again, limiting the size of group gatherings and urging people to work from home, according to CNBC. So far, about 82% of the population have received two vaccine doses.

In other developments, Vietnamese officials signaled that as cases continue to decline, they will begin easing COVID restrictions on Sep 30, as officials seek a balance between reopening the economy and keeping virus levels under control, but not with a goal of zero cases as before, according to Reuters.

In the country's current wave, the manufacturing hub around Ho Chi Minh City has been particularly hard hit, which triggered the closure of some factories.

And in Japan, government officials are expected to allow the state of emergency, in effect for 19 prefectures, to expire on Sep 30, according to the Japan Times. New cases are declining, but officials are urging the public not to let their guard down. So far, about 52% of the country's vaccination is fully vaccinated, and last week officials said booster shots will be given to health workers by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Australian officials today announced steps for reopening Sydney, which is the country's main hot spot and has now been under lockdown for several weeks. The plan consists of a two-tier system, which gives vaccinated people more freedoms, according to Reuters.

More global headlines

  • Cuba exported its first shipments of domestically made vaccine, a three-dose product from state-run BioCubaFarma called Abdala, according to Reuters. The shipment is part of a contract with Vietnam to supply 5 million doses.

  • El Salvador joined a growing list of Latin American countries that will give third vaccine doses starting with vulnerable groups including health workers, seniors, and those with underlying health conditions. Other countries that have announced similar measures include Panama, Ecuador, and Chile.

  • The global total today climbed to 232,107,923 cases, and 4,752,406 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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