December 4, 2021

China grows more isolated as Asia Pacific neighbors start living with Covid-19

2 min read

From Australia to South Korea and across Asia Pacific, the final bastions of “zero-Covid” are easing restrictions and opening borders as the region prepares to live with the virus — except for one major holdout.

China, the country where Covid-19 was first detected nearly two years ago, remains determined to eliminate the virus inside its borders, with officials there showing no signs of backing down. Despite fully vaccinating more than 75% of its population, China is sticking to its stringent zero-Covid strategy, including closed borders, lengthy quarantine measures for all international arrivals and local lockdowns when an outbreak occurs.

On Tuesday, the northwestern city of Lanzhou, with a population of more than 4 million people, went into lockdown after just six new daily Covid-19 cases were reported there. To date, Lanzhou has recorded 68 cases attached to the newest outbreak. And this approach seems set to stay, at least for now. Even though some Chinese health officials have suggested a tentative or partial relaxation once vaccination rates hit 85%, analysts say most restrictions are unlikely to ease within the next 12-months.

In China’s Asia Pacific neighbors, however, things couldn’t be more different. From Monday, South Korea will begin to live with the virus despite thousands of new confirmed cases every week. New measures will allow up to 10 people to meet in private gatherings in the Greater Seoul area and up to 12 for the rest of the country, while most businesses will be permitted to fully reopen as curfews end. And in Japan’s capital Tokyo, curfews were lifted for bars and restaurants at the end of last month, despite hundreds of new cases across the country every day.