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Coronavirus

We’re All Sweden Now: How COVID Fatigue Brought Us Back To Herd Immunity

Early in the pandemic, Swedish authorities were roundly criticized for the lack of COVID-19 restrictions and for arguing for a different cost-benefit calculation in trying to eliminate the virus at all costs. Now, more and more countries are dropping all restrictions even as Omicron continues to spread. But is this really about herd immunity?

Photo of a man wearing a COVID-19 mask on a subway in Amsterdam

Time to “live with the coronavirus”?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

Since Denmark became the first European nation to drop all COVID restrictions in late January, a slew of countries around the world have followed suit — including Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic and, most recently, the UK. After almost two years of curfews and mask mandates, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared Monday it was time to “live with the coronavirus.”

And the list of others taking the same path is set to grow: Italy and Spain recently lifted masking mandates for outdoor spaces, while French authorities have announced indoor masking will no longer be mandated starting next week. Meanwhile, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer harkens “a dignified spring awakening” with most restrictions to be lifted by March 5 — while German Chancellor Olof Scholz hailed last Wednesday “a very special day of the pandemic” after agreeing with 16 state governors on a schedule to drop most restrictions in the coming months.

But all of this rosy talk and rescinded restrictions also begs the question of why this is a special time. Why, as the Omicron variant is spreading far faster than previous versions, and when it’s clear that no nation on Earth has come close to conquering COVID, is it time to abandon containment efforts?

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Coronavirus

In Shanghai, A Brewing Expat Exodus As COVID Crackdown Shows "Real" China

Not only strict rules of freedom of movement as part of Zero-COVID policy but also an increase in censorship has raised many questions for the expat population in the megacity of 26 million that had long enjoyed a kind of special status in China as a place of freedom and openness. A recent survey of foreigners in the Chinese megacity found that 48% of respondents said they would leave Shanghai within the next year.

People walk in Tianzifang, located in Huangpu District, a well-known tourist attraction in Shanghai.

Lili Bai

SHANGHAI — On the seventh day of the lockdown, Félix, a French expat who has worked in Shanghai for four years, texted his boss: I want to "run,' mais je sais pas quand (but I don’t know when). A minute later, he received a reply: moi aussi (me too).

Félix had recently learned the new Mandarin word 润 (run) from social network postings of his local friends. Because its pinyin “rùn” is the same as the English word “run,” Chinese youth had begun to use it to express their wish to escape reality, either to “be freed from mundane life”, or to “run toward your future.”

For foreigners like Félix, by associating the expression “run” with the feeling of the current lockdown in Shanghai, “everything makes sense.” Félix recalled how at the end of March, the government denied rumors of an impending lockdown: “My Chinese colleagues all said, Shanghai is China’s top city, there would be no lockdown no matter what.”

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