Hwaseong, South Korea – The rush through Asia-Pacific countries slamming borders shut in response to the Omicron variant has raised a sobering question: What if strict restrictions? like trip bans never really end?
Scientists are generally there over agree that the coronovirus will continue to mutate indefinitely, with new variants appear periodically for the rest of our lives.
For Asia-Pacific countries die have withdrawn in isolation despite high vaccine coverage, that raises the prospect of a never ending cycle of economically and socially harmful restrictions on travel and everyday life — unless authorities change their thinking and learn to live with the virus.
AN range of experts in virology, epidemiology, medical ethics and economics told Al Jazeera the “end” of the pandemic as far as it has affected the most peoplelife would ultimately be a political and social choice.
“Instead of zombie-like walking in whatever comes next… we need to probably stop and think over what we define here as our endpoint,” Ian Mackay, a virologist at the university of Queensland, Al Jazeera told me.
“Right now we have a fairly well-vaccinated population in some parts of the world. die components of the world, especially those die have recently been vaccinated, are net as safe as they will be.”
Mackay said that while he disagreed… with the more laissez-faire approach to many western countries during the early days of the pandemic, the response to Omicron felt like a return to 2020 where “everything we put it over had and which I thought we had among our” belt used to be just thrown out the window and started again.”
“My personal feeling is that we should do not close the borders after this variant and after we pass it to see what the data tells usunless this variant is really a lot worse than we think first look,” he said, adding that vaccinating poorer parts of the world remained essential.
while numerous countries around the world have banned arrivals from southern Africa, where the variant was first detected, Asia-Pacific economies die kept the death toll low with border closures early in the pandemic has moved on and introduced sweeping restrictions on trip.
Japan last week banned all non-resident foreigners, boosting Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s approval ratings, while Australia announced An pause of the planned reopening of the borders for skilled migrants and international students.
Hong Kong, which has a strict “zero covid” policy that has frustrated foreign businesses and residents has banned travel to three dozen non-residents countries and mandatory 21 days of hotel quarantine for returning residents. Mainland China has had some: of the strictest limit controls and domestic restrictions during the pandemic, with alone burgers and residence permit holders were allowed to enter.
Malaysia and Singapore have postponed the introduction of a number of quarantine-free lanes, as South Korea reintroduced 10 days of quarantine for all incoming travelers.
Even before Omicron, the Asia-Pacific region was mostly closed for travel, with air traffic down almost 93 percent in October compared with same month in 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association, many more than other parts of the world.
The World Health Organization, die Omicron has designated it as a “variant” of concern”, has criticized blanket travel bans, describing their role in prevent the spread of the virus as minimal compared with their “heavy” last” on life and sustenance.”
Officials have emphasized that too little is known over the variant to draw firm conclusions over the transferability, virulence of response to vaccines, although early data has shown that most cases are mild.
‘Omicron is everywhere’
Roberto Bruzzone, co-director of the HKU Pasteur Research Pool in Hong Kong, told Al Jazeera the response to Omicron was unjustified on the available data.
“I quarreled” for a change in perspective for quite long, saying that we need learn to live together with the new virus,” said Bruzzone.
Bruzzone said he hoped the… region would not sleepwalk in An future die was permanently less open, free and interconnected.
“It would be helpful if the EU and the US and the UK and America tried to divert the discourse away from the so-called Asian approach – zero COVID, border closure for foreigners, long quarantines for residents, etc.” he said. “This is because the virus will reappear when you open borders and even now Omicron is everywhere.”
Catherine Bennett, and public health expert and epidemiologist at Deakin University in Melbourne, said divisions in public opinion and political calculations have created a “never-ending cycle” instead of the middle way die needed to navigate the coming months in a measured, safe way.
Bennett said she preferred to ‘choose’ up and down public Health safety measures if we have a signal that the virus can change, don’t slam shut on the brakes”.
“That is like a student driver stop every time they see a pedestrian step towards a curb, of a car Pull up a little over the line at an intersection ahead,” she said.
Bennett said a realistic endpoint for severe restrictions could be when pandemic measures “have become so lenient and effective, we are barely aware of it.” of the transitions between seasons and the vaccines can: catch up to the variants”.
Alberto Giubilini, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Al Jazeera told societies should make the choice to move beyond a state of “continuous emergency” i.e.: more so a social and cultural phenomenon than a scientific one reality.
“A pandemic ends when the virus becomes manageable and we learn to… live with it,” said Giubilini. “But that depends” more on how we act then on the virus itself. We keep treating certain things like it’s scientific issue when they aren’t. The end of the pandemic is a process of political negotiation and, ultimately, an ethical issue. The pandemic ends when we change our approach to a virus that is likely to stay with us forever.”
Giubilini said that societies never left the “emergency mode” die they went in when they started met the imposition of lockdowns in March 2020.
“We have become desensitized to its sheer size” of loss of freedom and to the loss of meaningful life,” he says. “We have selectively focused on one single threat, die a serious risk only to a small and well-identifiable fraction of the population.”
MacKay, the university of Queensland virologist, said pandemics are political nature and returning to normal life would be a question die each country would approach differently.
“You can’t tease the apart science and the politics and say this question is this thing and this question is that thing,” he said. “It’s all political and all scientific at the same time. It’s a mix and it’s a mixed bag because they relate to the population of the whole planet and if you have more than three people in a room die you have politics.”
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