Table 2

Snapshot of physical distancing measures implemented in six Asian countries

IndonesiaSingaporeSouth KoreaThailandThe PhilippinesVietnam
Work from home (WFH) arrangementsWFH in Indonesia is part of the community mobility restriction policy, which at the beginning of the pandemic applies for all affected areas. At end of 2020, WFH implementation depends on severity (daily cases, level of restriction policy imposed on the area) within the area, which could be either at the district or provincial level. At a more micro level, in areas where low case load is recorded, offices would apply WFH should there is a local outbreak among the employees.Telecommuting was advised since early 2020 but turned mandatory for nonessential workers when Circuit Breaker commenced. Snap WFH arrangements were enforced when huge spikes emerged in 2021. As Singapore learns to live with the virus, returning to workplaces are permitted although vaccination requirements and regular routine testing for workers.WFH arrangements since the first wave was reinstated after spikes emerged from a rally that took place in August 2020. Going into 2021, South Korean businesses have built remote work infrastructure for the future, while relying on offline work when infections drop. WFH arrangements have persisted as infections surged in 2022 due to Omicron.Advised voluntary WFH during first wave in 2020 and when the Omicron cases surged in July 2021.
Adherence was low among non-salaried and informal sector workers.
An existing policy, Telecommuting Act enacted in 2019 was supplemented with new rules in March 2020 for fair remuneration and treatment for those who WFH. Employers are also required to offer adequate support for this transition. However, the huge informal economy had made WFH for a substantial proportion of the population challenging.Since the start of the pandemic, WFH had been promoted based on epidemiological and hospital indicators, aligned with national Directives. As numbers remained high in 2021, most companies adopted hybrid work strategies. A ‘stay at work’ initiative where factory workers stay on premises to minimise contact with potential cases was trialled.
School closuresSchools were shuttered since March 2020 and remote learning was promoted but was faced with difficulties due to lack of internet access and learning devices. Schools reopened after 18 months when the numbers stabilised, but level of hybrid or remote learning was determined by local epidemiological severity.Schools shut during Circuit Breaker and embraced full online learning. When cases dropped in mid-2020, staggered returns of graduating classes were permitted. Snap closures were enacted due to the Delta surge but have been reopened since mid-2021.Since stoppage of physical lessons in early 2020, exemptions to user fees for educational websites and allowances for data usage was provided. Financial resources were given to needy students to procure learning devices. Full-time in-person classes resumed by the end 2021, although with high vaccination coverage in the general population but low in those aged 12–17.Schools closed in 2020 and 2021 during the peaks. Sandbox Safety Zones were set up end 2021 giving local authorities the power to evaluate the situation and open schools accordingly. For severe zones, a minimum of 85% vaccination of school personnel and students were needed for reopening.Schools had been shut since early 2020, with the cases remaining high and a slow vaccination campaign. More was needed to support blended learning, but the lack of internet access and devices stymied learning. Some schools reopened at the end of 2021, but all schools had to shut after an exponential growth in Omicron cases was experienced.Telecommunications companies have agreed to waive internet charges for computers under an internet and computers campaign for children. However, the education gap is reported to have widened for those in poor and rural areas, with schools shuttered for the greater part of 2020 and 2021.
Restriction on public gatheringsRestrictions were based on the Implementation of Community Activity Restrictions (PPKM). A significant spike in cases in mid-2021 had resulted in the prohibition of gathering in public places and tightened limits on restaurant capacity and places of worship. Restrictions continue to vary based on location according to epidemiological severity and hospital capacities.During the first wave, social gatherings were restricted and relaxed according to caseloads and health system capacity. Restrictions were re-tightened as the Delta wave threatened to overwhelm the health system, but the government is cautious to further relax measures as Omicron entered its borders.The earlier part of 2021 saw stringent restrictions of public gatherings but as the social fatigue wore on, the government changed its stance to a ‘Distancing in Daily Life’ approach with a more nuanced approach. As Omicron swept through, limits to gathering numbers continue to be enforced and curfews for eateries persist while high-risk businesses such as nightclubs and bars remain open.Public gatherings were limited since the beginning of the pandemic. In 2021, a zoning system was in place with dark red, red, orange and yellow zones based on size of epidemic. Limits on restaurant and mall capacities were also enforced. By the end of 2021, the system was revised to include a blue zone, which has minimum restrictions and are deemed safe to visit.Mass gatherings were prohibited since 2020, based on graduated four-tiered system, with a higher-tiered categorisation for locations facing immense stress to their hospitals and large caseloads. Towards the end of 2021, gatherings in residences not belonging to the same household were permitted, while indoor capacities were limited to 50% of the full capacity with only the fully vaccinated allowed entry. Outdoor venues were also open at 70% capacity, without prejudice to vaccination status.The levels of restrictions are based on three Directives, which will vary the level of restriction on public gatherings and curfews. Event capacities are also capped. Areas deemed as low risk can permit entertainment establishments to open while social events can accept only individuals who are vaccinated.
LockdownsInitially called Large Scale Social Restrictions was renamed PPKM which zones areas based on risks, epidemiology, surveillance and health services availability used to control stringency of measures, but a lockdown was never enacted.Circuit Breaker (lockdown) measures kicked in during the peak of the first wave, mainly attributed to foreign worker dormitories and high community spread thereafter. Though lasting for 2 months, the spread was contained and there were no other lockdowns since.No hard national lockdown but South Korea enforced stringent physical distancing measures in high incidence areas since the beginning of the pandemic. As the Delta wave caused hospital capacities to be overwhelmed, semi-lockdown measures kicked in for specific jurisdictions suffering from high infection numbers.A nationwide lockdown was introduced in April 2020 with tight curfews in place to stem the first wave. As the Delta wave swept in July 2021, targeting lockdowns in Bangkok and provinces with high case numbers took effect.The first lockdown took place in March 2020 in the Luzon island group, which included the Greater Manila Area, while individualised recommendations on the Community Quarantine levels differed based on the local epidemiological situation. Other cities and provinces soon followed suit by the end of March 2020. Highly restrictive community quarantines were instituted for specific cities and provinces depending on the estimated infection rates and healthcare system burden, such as the variant-driven surges in March 2021 and August 2021.There were multiple waves that caused a nationwide lockdown, but flexibility was applied to each province and smaller administrative levels after the second wave.