Covid-19: Australia, Thailand, South Korea … countries relax traffic restrictions

The world is preparing to pass the 5 million official death mark from Covid-19 on Monday 1is November. But this assessment is largely underestimated, according to the World Health Organization (WHO): taking into account the excess mortality linked to the new coronavirus, due to the lack of detection and treatment of other diseases, as well as deaths from Covid-19 not officially listed, due in particular to the lack of tests, it could be two to three times higher.

“It could have been much more dramatic without the measures taken: first the restriction of the movement of people, then the vaccination”, according to the epidemiologist at the Institut Pasteur and member of the French scientific council Arnaud Fontanet.

Many countries are now easing their restriction measures thanks to improvements in the vaccination rate within their borders.

  • Australia reopens its borders to its vaccinated nationals

A woman awaits the arrival of family members as international travelers arrive at Sydney Airport on November 1, 2021.

Australia reopened its borders on Monday, nearly six hundred days after they were closed. On March 20, 2020, the huge island-continent implemented one of the strictest border closures in the world to protect itself from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tens of thousands of Australians living abroad were unable to return to their homeland for nineteen months. Thefts were rare, and nationals allowed to return had to undergo an expensive fourteen-day quarantine at the hotel. The country’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, have decided to drop these measures, and fully vaccinated Australians can now travel without quarantine. Some Australian states, for which the vaccination rate remains low, will remain virtually closed. A mandatory fourteen-day quarantine will remain in effect.

More than a million foreign residents remain stranded in Australia, unable to return to reunite with friends or families, with the easing measures mainly applying to Australian citizens.

  • Thailand welcomes its first tourists vaccinated without quarantine

Tourists lounge by the pool of a hotel on the Thai island of Phuket on November 1, 2021, as Thailand welcomes without quarantine the first group of tourists fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

As of Monday, the Thai government has allowed vaccinated travelers from more than 60 countries to stay in Thailand without quarantining. The first landed this morning in Bangkok and the island of Phuket, a hope for rebirth for the bloodless Thai tourism industry after a year and a half of lockdown.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the kingdom’s economy, which depends heavily on tourism hard, and last year recorded its worst results since the Asian financial crisis of 1997, with a drop of more than 80% in arrivals. international visitors.

“The most important thing that the government and I are thinking about right now is getting people’s livelihoods back to normal.”Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Friday. Tourism accounts for nearly a fifth of the economy, and the impact of the pandemic has spilled over into a variety of sectors, from restaurants to transportation.

The return of tourists will be gradual, and the authorities expect 10 million to 15 million visitors next year, still far from the 2019 record of nearly 40 million. The expected revenue for 2022 is around $ 30 billion. “In 2023, we think they will be close to the figure for 2019”, said Tourism Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn.

But the industry is less optimistic, as Chinese tourists, who are Thailand’s main market, are still under strict quarantine upon their return home and are not expected to come en masse for many months. In addition, the kingdom still records around 10,000 cases of Covid-19 per day, and only around 40% of the population has received two doses of the vaccine. In Bangkok, this rate is 80%.

  • South Korea eases restrictions

Health departments disinfect storefronts as a precaution in Seoul, South Korea on Friday, October 29, 2021.

This is a first step in the gradual lifting of health restrictions, all of which must end by next February, according to the schedule presented by the authorities: this Monday, South Korea eases its restrictions, while more than 75 % of the population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Now, the curfew that had been put in place for bars and restaurants has been lifted. Sporting events organized outdoors can operate with 50% of their capacity. However, to go to places such as bars, nightclubs, karaoke bars and sports halls, proof of vaccination or a negative test dating back less than 48 hours must be presented.

If containment has never been decreed in the country since the start of the health crisis, South Korea is facing a fourth wave of the epidemic, which appeared in July. The government then set limits on gatherings and imposed strict social distancing measures.

Le Monde with AFP and Reuters

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Covid-19: Australia, Thailand, South Korea … countries relax traffic restrictions