APAC Reopening: Strategies and Challenges after Covid
Asia-Pacific’s Covid response has been compared favourably with those of the US and Europe over the past fifteen months. Charting a course of maximum suppression, APAC countries quickly closed their borders, established highly effective contact-tracing, and responded swiftly to small clusters of cases. Here in Hong Kong, masks remain ubiquitous in all settings and close contacts of confirmed cases are sent to a quarantine camp for 21 days. However, it has allowed a semblance of normal life to continue domestically. There has never been a stay-at-home order. Most leisure and hospitality settings have remained open, albeit with various limits on numbers and opening hours. The city has recorded just 210 deaths.
As vaccines transform the profile of the virus, it is the APAC nations that are now falling behind. Rollouts are slow in Australia and New Zealand, and states in the former have gone back into lockdown. Mainland China is swiftly getting jabs in arms but the data is unclear on how their own vaccines will stand up to infection in the real world. Hong Kong has been a victim of the mistrust between its government and citizens. Despite offering a Pfizer vaccine to every resident above the age of 12, just 18% have chosen to get fully vaccinated. With so little immunity from infection in these populations, high vaccine-coverage is a prerequisite for these countries to re-open safely.
But there are signs of a changing approach. Hong Kong, home of the world’s longest 21-day quarantine, has lowered this to 7 for fully-vaccinated residents travelling from most countries. Phuket will open to fully-vaccinated tourists on July 1st. The island has finished an impressive scheme to inoculate 70% of residents and hopes to rescue its crippled tourist industry. Perhaps more significantly, Singapore recently announced plans to change its approach from September. The city-island-nation is set to vaccinate ⅔ of its population by early August. Once this is achieved, the government said they will treat Covid as an endemic disease and stop counting daily case numbers. The move will put pressure on its regional competitors for the status of Asia’s ‘world city’.
The APAC region faces several challenges as it looks to a different strategy. Politically, its citizens will have to adjust to a new risk-profile. Operationally, its countries have to implement rapid and thorough vaccine rollouts, and overcome hesitancy where encountered. Technologically, there has to be an internationally-recognised vaccine passport.
To discuss these challenges and look ahead to a reopening timeline, Chartwell recommends these experts from the region:
If you are interested in booking any of the above speakers, please get in touch.