This resource guide is curated to complement the Read to be Sure Learning Package on COVID-19 restrictions.
COVID-19 has had an increasingly devastating impact since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic in March 2020. COVID-19 has challenged national and global capacities to prepare and respond. Many countries have implemented restrictions to curb the spread of the virus and prevent health systems from becoming overwhelmed. The relative success of the various national strategies taken to control viral transmission depends largely on the resilience of health systems in managing the pandemic.
We now have the knowledge and tools needed to control the pandemic. Vaccine mandates have been deployed broadly, and new treatments show promise in reducing the risk of severe COVID-19. The WHO has called for countries to use masks, social distancing, proper ventilation and hand hygiene to prevent contagion. Countries that have strong healthcare safety nets and societal cohesion are more resilient to COVID-19. Trust in government and people’s willingness to comply with rules help with containing the virus.
“Parts of the world are approaching a transition or a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Moving into a post-pandemic world will be more complicated than scenarios such as “Zero COVID.” The challenge is for individual nations to determine the acceptable level of COVID-19 in an interconnected world.
This resource guide shines the spotlight on various COVID-19 restrictions and measures, how to live with COVID-19 as well as the future of the pandemic.
The guide provides supplementary resources for those who are keen to further explore this topic. You can also visit https://search.nlb.gov.sg/ to search for more resources.
The resource guide was prepared in December 2021 by Darren Seow, Librarian, at the National Library, Singapore.
To get through the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to learn how to live in an ongoing disaster
COVID-19 does not respond to established practices of how we deal with disaster. We need to learn how to live in an ongoing disaster for the foreseeable future. Emergency management planning often entails a four-phase disaster cycle: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. We are still in the emergency part of the pandemic. Recovery is not yet discernible. People are too fatigued to be in a constant state of preparedness. Mitigation is a distant goal at this juncture. “We just have to cope as best we can by hunkering down.”
Several countries have introduced vaccine mandates, which are “a way to compel people to get vaccinations.” This could mean that a person must be vaccinated or be excluded from certain activities and locations like food and beverage establishments or workplaces. Vaccine mandates in relation to childhood vaccinations have been around for a long time. Vaccine mandates aim to increase vaccination rates by incentivising people to get vaccinated. Vaccine mandates also raise ethical questions. Some people consider them an infringement of individual liberty. Vaccine mandates might exacerbate inequity for the most vulnerable or marginalised.
New variants show why the world urgently needs vaccine equity
Low-income countries have much lower Covid-19 vaccination rates compared to high-income countries. The persistent presence of large unvaccinated populations globally increases the emergence of vaccine-resistant variants, as in the case of Omicron. Omicron reminds us of the need to expedite efforts to protect populations everywhere. If we cannot address vaccine inequity, we will continue to face the risk of a prolonged pandemic, with the emergence of new variants and constant changes between the opening and closing of schools, offices, restaurants, borders and economies.
Omicronomics: China’s economy looks especially vulnerable to the spread of Omicron
The Omicron variant may further establish China’s strict restrictions on business travel. Omicron may cause more disruption to China’s economy than to other countries with high GDP. China’s zero-COVID policy requires at least 14 days of quarantine in a hotel for international visitors. Travel is essential to innovation. The restrictions on cross-border travel will have a negative impact on innovation. If Omicron is more contagious than other strains, it will increase the likelihood of COVID-19 outbreaks and more frequent lockdowns in China.
Finance industry group ups pressure on Hong Kong to abandon COVID-zero policy, ease restrictions
A financial industry group said that Hong Kong’s zero-COVID policy and strict quarantine requirements for international travellers threaten to undermine the city’s status as a financial hub. The Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association said a survey of its members indicated that 48 percent of companies were considering moving staff or functions away from Hong Kong due to operational challenges. Hong Kong has some of the world’s tightest travel restrictions; and has no public plan for opening up to international travellers.
COVID-19 cases are plummeting in Asia, and scientists aren’t 100% sure why
COVID-19 cases have been falling across Asia since early September. A rise in COVID-19 vaccinations is likely the key reason for Asia’s downward trend. But other factors like natural immunity from past infections, Asia’s slower reopening, and even seasonal weather patterns may contribute to the decreasing COVID rates. However, the more transmissible Omicron variant may disrupt Asia’s declining COVID rates as the virus is more likely to bypass vaccine protection and increase the risk of reinfection in people who previously contracted COVID-19. Improving vaccine rates remains the best protection against the new variant.
From response to transformation: How countries can strengthen national pandemic preparedness and response systems
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, we must learn how to move from response to transformation. Countries should partner, develop and strengthen across a range of domains such as preparing systems for pandemic preparedness and response, and building resilient and equitable societies that can save lives and livelihoods. High performing national responses to COVID-19 are characterised by developing a suite of public health and socioeconomic measures to break chains of transmission in communities. Low performing countries’ national approaches are hindered by devaluing, delays and distrust that render national efforts ineffective in stopping chains of transmission.
Covid-19: What we have learnt from behavioural science during the pandemic so far that can help prepare us for the future
Four key lessons that governments can learn from behavioural science to protect against future pandemics, as well as to inform our thinking about wider issues, from vaccine uptake to public health messaging. Firstly, trust in government is one of the key predictors of adherence to public and social measures and vaccine acceptance. Secondly, governments should invest in improving people’s opportunities and capabilities to adhere to measures such as self-isolation. Thirdly, clarity and consistency of policy and message is essential. Fourthly, protection rather than restriction should be the focus of pandemic preparedness.
Williams, S., et al. (2021, December 6). Covid-19: What we have learnt from behavioural science during the pandemic so far that can help prepare us for the future. British Medical Journal, 375. Retrieved December 27, 2021, from https://www.bmj.com/content/375/bmj.n3028.full.pdf
Beyond Omicron: What’s next for COVID’s viral evolution
The spread of new variants offers clues about how the COVID-19 will evolve. How the coronavirus evades immune response has implications for its transition to an endemic virus. COVID-19 is likely to cause outbreaks like other respiratory viruses. How these outbreaks will turn out depends on how quickly a population becomes newly susceptible to infection, and whether that happens through viral evolution, waning immunity, or the birth of new children without immunity to the virus. “Vaccinating as many people as possible could stop the virus from unlocking changes that drive a new wave.”
What can the world learn from China’s response to COVID-19?
China was the first country to experience the outbreak of COVID-19. China adopts aggressive prevention and control strategies to contain and eliminate local infections. China uses old school public health strategies such as mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing, and restriction of public events and travel, contact tracing and quarantining infected people. New technologies assist too. “However, successful containment has also left China’s population almost entirely vulnerable, and thus the country needs to persist with strong public health measures until population immunity is established through vaccination.”
Losing time: End this pandemic and secure the future
COVID-19 has revealed the urgent need for the world to respond to the current pandemic and to prepare for the next health threat. These health emergencies go beyond the health sector including finance, trade, labour, and education. Pandemic preparedness and response requires a whole-of-society approach. Countries must employ the full range of tools available beyond vaccines including equitable access to diagnostics and novel antivirals, masking, distancing, and ventilation. “There is no single magic bullet to end pandemics, but there is a combination of measures that will: commitment, finance, global public goods, alerts and preparedness, and leadership.”
Global Health Security Index: Advancing collective action and accountability amid global crisis, 2021
The Global Health Security (GHS) Index assesses pandemic preparedness and provides a benchmark for capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to epidemics and pandemics across 195 countries. The 2021 GHS Index finds that although many countries took steps to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, all countries remain unprepared to meet future pandemic threats. Countries now have a more accurate understanding of what the lack of preparedness means for their health and prosperity. Countries should develop new tools and build additional capacities to better protect lives and livelihoods against the next pandemic.
Tackling COVID-19 over the long term: How to strengthen international efforts to end the pandemic
A fragmented global response risks extending the COVID-19 pandemic. Further variants are likely to emerge and all countries remain in a dangerous phase of the pandemic. Policy makers need to take action to develop a stronger plan for vaccinating the world, as well as invest in the surveillance and healthcare capacity that will be essential to combating the virus over the coming years. Countries should take it that their contributions would not only help end the pandemic, but equip the world to face future threats.
Virtual roundtables on the future of the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious threats
The World Health Organization and partners discuss the future of the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious threats in the next three to five years. They explore four potential scenarios and discuss the implications, potential risks and possible solutions, namely the pandemic is over, and COVID-19 is under control; five years later, the virus through multiple mutations manages to persist and become part of our lives; the virus has evolved to become even more infectious; and in addition to a worsening COVID-19 pandemic, a new pandemic emerges.
Resilience, post-traumatic growth and the COVID-19 pandemic
The speakers describe resilience and post-traumatic growth (PTG), consider opportunities to build resiliency during COVID-19, and discuss approaches to shaping resiliency and PTG personally and collectively. Stress is a foundational element of building resilience. Resilience can be described in three different processes: recovery, adaption and transformation. PTG entails establishing perspectives for a new normal when the old normal is no longer viable.