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Containment Collapse: Reader Reports

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Once again, thanks so much for your enthusiastic response. Reading all of your reports, and comparing them to my own experience, is as always enormously instructive.

There are, of course, the long-familiar patterns: Those in the countryside are vastly more relaxed about Corona than those in the cities. Offices are better than schools and universities, and the private sector is better than the government. Smaller countries as a rule have the most fanatical restrictions. The more direct experience a population has with SARS-2 infection, the more demand for restrictions is diminished. Even if exposure remains low, exhaustion with containment measures can become a political force in its own right. The first things to go, are the non-pharmaceutical interventions – the capacity limits, the mask mandates, enforced closures. Vaccines are the citadel at the centre; the rules surrounding vaccination are generally the last to fall.

I’ve tried to pick representative reports from across the world. You’ll find them below, lightly edited, often truncated for length. Once again, I’ve erred on the side of keeping your notes anonymous


Philippines and Malaysia

The view from Asia has always been interesting. Corona has been far less deadly in this region of the world, and yet beyond Japan many countries there have nevertheless imposed drastic restrictions, in response to what is, from the standpoint of mortality, not much worse than a bad influenza.

One reader reports on the Philippines, where all remains fairly grim:

A vaccine mandate has been in force for all workers in private and public sectors since the end of October, and unfortunately the opt-out option of weekly PCR testing is financially impossible for many Filipinos, many of whom are drastically poor. This latest round of insanity brought with it restrictions on the unvaccinated and a de facto vaccine passport system. The president told local officials (‘barangay captains’) to make a list of unvaccinated individuals in their communities and restrict their movements, and the unvaccinated were also banned from public transport (a “no vax card, no ride” policy). Stores, malls, and restaurants–anywhere indoors–also required individuals to show their vax card for entry, and as a result most Filipinos have begun wearing their laminated cards around their necks on a lanyard. Naturally, all of these measures made no difference: “cases” in the metro Manila region reached all-time highs despite the 108% vaccination rate in some areas. Every single person I know here who got the booster got covid immediately after, like clockwork. You already know how they rationalized that.

Now that we are back to Level 2, I expected that most of these measures would be rolled back and things would return to the way they were the last time we were in Level 2, in November, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. While the unvaxxed are no longer consigned to their homes and can use public transportation again, most stores seem to be reluctant to roll back the ‘no vax, no entry’ policy. Yet, at the same time, the government has finally ended the mandatory, facility-based quarantine policy for vaccinated travelers entering the country, and reduced the home quarantine protocol for vaccinated individuals testing positive for covid. It goes without saying that the vaccine mandate for private and public workers is still in place. Masking is a religion in metro Manila, and masks must be worn at all times when leaving your home. Indeed, it was only in November that the government removed the mandatory face shield. Because Filipinos are a highly compliant people, adherence to masking protocols has been well above 90% for the duration of the covid crisis, and the hope that the mask mandate will be relaxed, even outdoors, anytime in the near future is unthinkable. “The mask will be with us forever,” President Duterte declared after removing the face shield requirement in November.

There are some rays of hope. The government rollout of vaccines for children under 12 has been consistently delayed. The government blames supply issues, but there have been lawsuits seeking an injunction against the child vaccine rollout, and resistance to the vaccine has been strong here, particularly in the provinces outside of metro Manila. It’s true that life is more normal outside of the capital region–few people follow the mask mandate, and life carries on more normally in the countryside. Of note are TV advertisements, many of which had masked actors for the longest time, but these have become fewer and fewer. I think even in metro Manila patience is starting to wear thin, with the rules being enforced with decreasing zealousness and more people disregarding what the government nanny-ishly calls ‘the minimum health protocols’. My hope is that the government will see the writing on the wall with other countries and change direction (they like to follow what the US does when it suits them), but I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. I think in the end, the war in this country will only be won through attrition. A

A depressed reader sends a brief report from the other side of the South China Sea, where things seem hardly better:

Sad to say nothing has changed in Malaysia.

People still wearing masks inside and out, we still have to scan everywhere and we still have morons on the TV telling us that we need to get vaccines to stop the deadly covid.

Air Travel is open within the country for vaccinated only

They are denying the vaccines do any harm at all, no official acknowledgement that they are anything but “safe and effective”.

It’s pretty sickening and I hope this otherwise lovely country will wake the f up soon…

Australia

I have many, many Australian readers – I had no idea. There, a lot depends on what state you live in, as one correspondent notes:

Australia has gotten a lot of bad press on containment but few people overseas understand that Australia is a Federation of States. There are two states in particular that were highly contained: Victoria (which is slowly opening up) and Western Australia (which is getting worse). Unfortunately some overseas media outlets report what Western Australia is doing as “Australian” measures which isn’t true. About the only power the Federal Government has here that is pandemic related is border control. All other measures are put in place by the Governments of the 6 states (and two Federal territories).

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