As Omicron, the latest and fast spreading Covid-19 virus variant, grips the world leading to a massive surge in the positive cases, a divide is clearly visible between the western and eastern countries. When most of the western countries are teaching their people learn to live with the virus, the Asian countries are entering into yet another phase of strict restrictions even though the Omicron variant, at least till now has been found to be much milder than Delta, the lethal mutation that had devastated the world in early and mid 2021.
Omicron variant of SARS-COV-2 aka Coronavirus might have luckily made an evolutionary mistake during its formation as it is benign in nature, even though might have proven to be highly transmissible variant so far.
The Invisible Divide:
Omicron variant of coronavirus has spread in most of the countries but when this virus variant is so transmissible, economies need to take a backseat as to control the fatality rate.
To sway the fatality rates and control the supremacy of the virus, evidently Asian economies have stricter protocols even when there is notably lesser hospitalisation, fewer cases of deaths and no shortage of medical staffs. Whereas, western countries eased off their Covid-19 restrictions forming an invisible divide.
Recent border restriction in India were extended till 31st January 2022. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released an updated list of ‘At Risk’ nations for international arrivals. Ministry added 8 new countries to ‘at risk’ list. Now there are gross 20 nations on this list. India also signed ‘Air Transport Bubbles’ agreement with 35 nations around the world to curb the movement of population and further infections most importantly.
Hong Kong like Mainland China entered into a phase of achieving ‘Zero-Covid Strategy’. The zero-covid action plan includes shutting of gyms, bars, dining places, primary schools and ban on flights from 7 Countries.
Further, Japan puts a hold on all non-residential foreign travelers. Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, even India put out a list of Covid-19 measures and quarantine period for all the international travelers. Whereas, Countries like Germany, France, Spain, Italy and United State too have trusted the theory of living with the virus and depending on only vaccinations.
While talking to Professor Lawrence Young who is a Virologist at University of Warwick in United Kingdom, about how western countries aren’t putting any strict Covid-19 restrictions on public whereas Asian nations are ready to seal borders if not that then regulating measures and checks on international arrivals also implementing in-country restrictions as well.
To which he said, “Western countries are relying on vaccinations more than anything else because of a lot of concerns about compliance, the population, not necessarily listing to government in relation to other restrictions, concerns about the economic impacts of lockdowns, I think a lot of it is about the fact that governments in the West have not messaged well to their population there is a lot of mistrust certainly happening in the mainland Europe and indeed in central and Eastern Europe. Where there is so much vaccine hesitancy, even vaccination programs are struggling because people mistrust the vaccine.”
“There is a general mistrust of their government, I think mix messaging is very dangerous. In UK with government messaging being rather confusing and people thinking perhaps they don’t need to worry so much about getting vaccinated if the Omicron variant is mild or perhaps they don’t need to worry about wearing face masks as the rules change every few days. We have been pushing in the UK, on vaccination and the use of lateral flow tests, but I think getting compliance and getting people to behave in Covid-19 Appropriate Behavior is becoming difficult.“, he further added.
The Logical Divide
It is always said that history teaches you lessons that you should always remember. And the strict restrictions and the pathway towards semi-lockdowns in any Asian countries like China, Japan, Hong Kong, India, Philippines and South Korea are results of the unfortunate history that some Asian countries have faced last year.
Poor economies or even developing countries can not afford to take another setback of scary situations when hospitalization of positive patient became a dream, caseloads, deaths were rising daily with no scope of treatment for any. Scarcity of oxygen, hospital beds, medicines and even doctors or medical staffs.
Higher vaccination coverage of population, speedy vaccination drives and arrival of booster AKA precaution dose is also a result of the lessons Asian countries learnt during second Coronavirus wave. The invisible divide here becomes of many fold, so it becomes only logical to have retractions and shut down of non-essential movements of the population, implementing curfews, vaccinations against Covid-19 and most importantly following Covid-19 Appropriate Behaviour (CAB).