SINGAPORE — England has removed nearly all coronavirus restrictions. Germany is allowing vaccinated people to travel without quarantines. Outdoor mask mandates are mostly gone in Italy. Shopping malls remain open in Singapore.
Eighteen months after the coronavirus first emerged, governments in Asia, Europe and the Americas are encouraging people to return to their daily rhythms and transition to a new normal in which subways, offices, restaurants and airports are once again full. Increasingly, the mantra is the same: We have to learn to live with the virus.
Yet scientists warn that the pandemic exit strategies may be premature. The emergence of more transmissible variants means that even wealthy nations with abundant vaccines, including the United States, remain vulnerable. Places like Australia, which shut down its border, are learning that they cannot keep the virus out.
So rather than abandon their road maps, officials are beginning to accept that rolling lockdowns and restrictions are a necessary part of recovery. People are being encouraged to shift their pandemic perspective and focus on avoiding severe illness and death instead of infections, which are harder to avoid. And countries with zero-Covid ambitions are rethinking those policies.
“You need to tell people: We’re going to get a lot of cases,” said Dale Fisher, a professor of medicine at the National University of Singapore who heads the National Infection Prevention and Control Committee of Singapore’s Health Ministry. “And that’s part of the plan — we have to let it go.”
「你得告訴民眾:我們會有很多病例,」新加坡國立大學(National University of Singapore)醫學教授、新加坡衛生部國家感染防控委員會(National Infection Prevention and Control Committee)主席戴爾·費舍爾(Dale Fisher)說。「這就是計劃的一部分——我們必須放開管制。」
本月,新加坡的一家健身房。這個城市國家計劃逐步放鬆防疫限制,重點關注嚴重疾病,而不是感染人數。 Ore Huiying for The New York Times
For months, many residents in Singapore, the small Southeast Asian city-state, pored over the details of each new Covid case. There was a palpable sense of dread when infections reached double digits for the first time. And with borders closed, there was also a feeling of defeat, since even the most diligent measures were not enough to prevent infection.
“Our people are battle weary,” a group of Singapore ministers wrote in an opinion essay in the Straits Times newspaper in June. “All are asking: When and how will the pandemic end?”
「我們的人民已經疲憊不堪,」新加坡幾名部長6月在《海峽時報》(The Straits Times)的一篇觀點文章中寫道。「所有人都在問,這場疫情何時結束?如何結束?」
Officials in Singapore announced plans to gradually ease restrictions and chart a path to the other side of the pandemic. The plans included switching to monitoring the number of people who fall very ill, how many require intensive care and how many need to be intubated, instead of infections.
Those measures are already being put to the test.
Outbreaks have spread through several karaoke lounges and a large fishery port, and on Tuesday Singapore announced a tightening of measures, including banning all dine-in service. The trade minister, Gan Kim Yong, said the country was still on the right track, comparing the latest restrictions to “roadblocks” toward the final goal.
疫情已經在家卡拉OK廳和一個大型漁港蔓延,週二,新加坡宣布收緊措施,包括禁止一切堂食服務。貿工部長顏金勇(Gan Kim Yong)表示,新加坡仍處於正軌,他將最新的限制措施比作通向最終目標的「路障」。
Singapore has fully vaccinated 49 percent of its population and has cited Israel, which is further ahead at 58 percent, as a model. Israel has pivoted to focusing on severe illness, a tactic that officials have called “soft suppression.” It is also facing its own sharp rise in cases, up from single digits a month ago to hundreds of new cases a day. The country recently reimposed an indoor mask mandate.
“It’s important, but it’s quite annoying,” said Danny Levy, 56, an Israeli civil servant who was waiting to see a movie at a cinema complex in Jerusalem last week. Mr. Levy said that he would wear his mask inside the theater, but that he found it frustrating that restrictions were being reimposed while new virus variants were entering the country because of weak testing and supervision of incoming travelers.
「這很重要,但也很煩人,」上週,正在耶路撒冷一家影院外等待進場的56歲以色列公務員丹尼·利維(Danny Levy)表示。利維說他會在影院裡戴口罩,但讓他不滿的是,由於對入境旅客的檢測和監督不力,新的病毒變種正在進入國內,而重新實施限制措施。
特拉維夫的一個美食廣場。以色列已轉向關注嚴重疾病,官員們稱該策略為「軟抑制」。 Emmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said that countries taking shortcuts on their way to reopening were putting unvaccinated people at risk and gambling with lives.
紐西蘭奧塔哥大學(University of Otago)流行病學家麥可·貝克(Michael Baker)說,那些在重新開放的道路上走捷徑的國家正在把未接種疫苗的人置於危險之中,是拿他們的生命賭博。
“At this point in time, I actually find it quite surprising that governments would necessarily decide they know enough about how this virus will behave in populations to choose, ‘Yes, we are going to live with it,’” said Mr. Baker, who helped devise New Zealand’s Covid elimination strategy.
New Zealanders seem to have accepted the possibility of longer-term restrictions. In a recent government-commissioned survey of more than 1,800 people, 90 percent of respondents said they did not expect life to return to normal after they were vaccinated, partly because of the lingering questions about the virus.
Scientists still do not fully understand “long Covid” — the long-term symptoms that hundreds of thousands of previously infected patients are still grappling with. They say that Covid-19 should not be treated like the flu, because it is far more dangerous. They are also uncertain about the duration of immunity provided by vaccines and how well they protect against the variants.
5月,在柏林參觀畫廊的人。 Lena Mucha for The New York Times
Much of the developing world is also still facing rising infections, giving the virus a greater opportunity to rapidly replicate, which then increases the risks of more mutations and spread. Only 1 percent of people in low-income countries have received a vaccine dose, according to the Our World in Data project.
大多數發展中國家也仍面臨感染人數上升的問題,這使得病毒迅速複製的概率增加,從而導致更多變異和傳播的風險增大。根據「用數據看世界」(Our World in Data)項目的統計,低收入國家只有1%的人口接種了疫苗。
In the United States, where the state and local governments do much of the decision-making, conditions vary widely from place to place. States like California and New York have high vaccination rates but require unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors, while others, like Alabama and Idaho, have low vaccination rates but no mask mandates. Some schools and universities plan to require on-campus students to be vaccinated, but several states have prohibited public institutions from imposing such restrictions.
In Australia, several state lawmakers suggested this month that the country had reached “a fork in the road” at which it needed to decide between persistent restrictions and learning to live with infections. They said that Australia might need to follow much of the world and give up on its Covid-zero approach.
Gladys Berejiklian, the leader of the Australian state of New South Wales, immediately knocked the proposal down. “No state or nation or any country on the planet can live with the Delta variant when our vaccination rates are so low,” she said. Only about 11 percent of Australians over age 16 are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
澳洲新南威爾斯州州長格拉迪斯·貝雷吉克利安(Gladys Berejiklian)立即否決了該提案。她說:「在我們的疫苗接種率如此低的情況下,地球上沒有哪個州或者國家能夠忍受德爾塔病毒變種。」在16歲以上的澳洲人中,只有約11%的人接種了新冠疫苗。
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also backed away from calls for a shift in the country’s Covid protocols. After announcing a four-phase plan for returning to regular life on July 2, he has insisted that the strength of the Delta variant requires an indefinite postponement.
澳洲總理史考特·莫里森(Scott Morrison)也不支持改變該國新冠方案的呼籲。在7月2日宣布恢復正常生活的四階段計劃後,他堅持認為,德爾塔病毒變種的力量導致恢復正常需要無限期推遲。
週一,倫敦的金絲雀碼頭,由於政府解除了幾乎所有疫情限制,這一天被稱為「自由日」。 Tom Jamieson for The New York Times
In places where vaccine shots have been widely available for months, such as Europe, countries have bet big on their inoculation programs as a ticket out of the pandemic and the key to keeping hospitalizations and deaths low.
Germans who have been fully immunized in the past six months can dine indoors in restaurants without showing proof of a negative rapid test. They are allowed to meet up in private without any limits and to travel without a 14-day quarantine.
In Italy, masks are required only when entering stores or crowded spaces, but many people continue to wear them, even if only as a chin guard. “My daughters chide me — they say I’ve been vaccinated and don’t need to wear a mask, but I got used to it,” said Marina Castro, who lives in Rome.
在義大利,只有進入商店或擁擠空間時才需要戴口罩,但許多人仍然戴著口罩,即使只是蓋住下巴。「女兒們責備我——她們說我已經接種了疫苗,不需要戴口罩,但我已經習慣了,」住在羅馬的瑪麗娜·卡斯楚(Marina Castro)說。
England, which has vaccinated nearly all of its most vulnerable residents, has taken the most drastic approach. On Monday, the country eliminated virtually all Covid-19 restrictions despite the rise of Delta-variant infections, particularly among young people.
在義大利,戴口罩已成為常態,儘管大多數地方不再要求戴口罩。 Nadia Shira Cohen for The New York Times
On “Freedom Day,” as the tabloids called it, pubs, restaurants and nightclubs flung their doors wide open. Curbs on gatherings and mask requirements were also lifted. People were seen dining al fresco and sunbathing, cheek to jowl.
In the absence of most rules, the government is urging people to use “personal responsibility” to maintain safety. Sajid Javid, Britain’s health secretary — who tested positive for the coronavirus last week — said last month that the country needed to “learn to live” with the virus. That is despite polls suggesting that the English public prefers a more gradual approach to reopening.
在大多數規則不復存在的情況下,政府敦促人們用「個人責任」來維護安全。英國衛生大臣賽義德·賈維德(Sajid Javid)上週的冠狀病毒檢測呈陽性,他曾在上個月表示,英國需要「學會與這種病毒共存」。儘管民意調查顯示,英國公眾更傾向於以更漸進的方式重新開放。
Officials in Singapore, which reported a year-high 182 locally transmitted infections on Tuesday, say the number of cases is likely to rise in the coming days. The outbreak appears to have delayed but not scuttled plans for a phased reopening.
“You give people a sense of progression,” Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s health minister, said this month, “rather than waiting for that big day when everything opens and then you go crazy.”
本月澳洲雪梨郊外的一個疫苗接種中心排隊的人,該中心因病例暴發而處於封鎖狀態。 Anna Maria Antoinette D'Addario for The New York Times