Covid-19: The Asia-Pacific Countries Now Easing Restrictions

News from these three nations is a rare bright spot amid the daily deluge of gloomy headlines.

Milford Sound and Mitre Peak, as seen on a rare sunny day. (Photo: Somphol/

New Zealand

After a strict month-long lockdown, New Zealand is set to downgrade its alert level from the maximum of 4 to alert level 3 at 11:59 p.m. tonight. Businesses in the forestry, construction, and manufacturing sectors will resume operations, so long as staff are kept at least two meters apart and workers practice good personal hygiene. Contactless food delivery and takeout service from restaurants will be available once more, and early learning centers and schools for kids up to those in Year 10 will reopen. That said, learning from home is still encouraged wherever possible. New Zealand’s outdoorsy population is no doubt relieved to know that swimming and surfing will soon be permitted, as will hiking and mountain biking on familiar ground. The government is advising those leaving their homes for a dose of fresh air to only drive “a short distance” to visit local beaches and parks. These measures will be in place for at least the next two weeks.


A visitor at a fire lookout in Western Australia’s Southern Forests region. (Photo: Frances Andrijich)


Two states are relaxing their mandatory restrictions this week. From today, Western Australia is allowing both indoor and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, as well as non-contact recreational activities—including picnics with members of the same household, boating, hiking, and camping—are also back on the cards. Under the new rules, outdoor fitness training classes can be held for a maximum of 10 participants with social distancing in place. Meanwhile, Queensland will relax its own regulations on Saturday, May 2, when shops selling “non-essential items” such as clothes and shoes will be back in business. State premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced yesterday that Queenslanders will be allowed to drive within 50 kilometers of their home, ride a motorcycle, jetski, or boat, and visit nearby national parks. However, those living in neighboring New South Wales will not get to benefit as state borders remain closed to non-residents.


Heritage architecture in the UNESCO-listed Old Town of Hoi An. (Photo: James Louie)


Hailed for carrying out the most successful Covid-19 containment efforts in Southeast Asia, Vietnam has recorded just 270 cases without a single coronavirus death. The country lifted its nationwide social distancing measures last Thursday following seven consecutive days of no new cases—malls have reopened, while buses and taxis are back on the streets after a three-week ban. Local airlines now have permission to resume all domestic flights, though weak demand so far means the frequency of passenger services will not reach pre-pandemic levels for some time to come. The Vietnamese government is still taking a cautious approach: its ban on international flights has been extended, schools are shuttered for several more weeks, and gatherings of more than 20 people are not yet allowed.


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