Across the Asia-Pacific region, the countries that led the world in containing the coronavirus are now languishing in the race to put it behind them.
While the U.S. and some Western nations are cramming airplanes with vaccinated passengers, the countries praised for their early handling of the pandemic are stuck in cycles of restrictions and isolation.
In southern China, the spread of the Delta variant led to a recent lockdown and an effort to test tens of millions.
Similar outbreaks reversed progress in Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand and Australia. Borders are still mostly closed.
The tolerance for constrained lives is thinning, and one main factor is contributing to the uncertainty: a lack of vaccines, with campaigns barely underway in many countries.
“It’s like we’re waiting in the glue or mud,” said a vaccine expert in Melbourne. In Asia, just 21 percent of people have received at least one vaccine dose.
The whipsawing is rooted in decisions made months ago. In the spring of 2020, the U.S. and European nations bet big on vaccines, fast-tracking approval and spending billions.
But in places like Australia, Japan and Taiwan, with case numbers low, there was less urgency to buy.
Pakistani officials have begun punishing unvaccinated citizens, including blocking cellphone service and suspending the salaries of some government employees.
An Indian government report revealed that private agencies responsible for coronavirus testing at a large Hindu festival in April forged at least 100,000 results.