After several months of blockade, some Southeast Asian countries have left the clearing strategy behind and chose to develop a way to coexist with the virus. However, experts warn that opening up when the vaccine coverage is not enough may bring catastrophic consequences.
COVID-19 swept Southeast Asia this summer. Due to the extremely contagious Delta variant, the number of cases increased sharply in July, and the epidemic peaked in most countries in August.
Now governments including Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam are seeking to revitalize the economy by reopening borders and public spaces, especially the important tourism industry. However, experts worry that the low vaccination rate in most parts of Southeast Asia may bring catastrophic results.
From June to August, many Southeast Asian countries adopted strict restrictive measures to try to control the epidemic.
Since then, the number of new cases per day in Southeast Asia has declined, but the number is still quite high. According to data from Johns Hopkins University in the United States, the Philippines reports nearly 20,000 confirmed cases every day; Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia register about 15,000 cases every 24 hours; Indonesia’s infection rate has dropped the most, with thousands of cases being reported every day.
Although the peak has just passed and the vaccination rate in some places is still frustratingly low, some governments are ready to reopen.
Vietnam plans to reopen the Phu Quoc resort to foreign tourists from next month.
Thailand plans to reopen the capital Bangkok and other important city to attract to foreign tourists before October, and at the same time hopes to revitalize the sluggish tourism industry.
Indonesia, which has a vaccine coverage rate of slightly more than 16% of the population, also eased restrictions, reopened public places, and allowed factories to resume production at full capacity.
Malaysia is one of the countries with the highest vaccination rate in Southeast Asia. More than 56% of the population has been fully vaccinated. Last week, the resort Langkawi was reopened to domestic tourists.
However, experts warned that premature reopening is dangerous. The low vaccination rate in parts of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand, has a much greater risk of reopening than in Western countries.
But these countries have no choice. Waiting for a slowdown in global vaccine demand and opening up supply is not a real option. In the past two years, people’s lives and livelihoods have been severely disrupted. If they are not allowed to unblock them, the consequences are unimaginable.