The world’s governments are falling into either of two camps in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic: learn to live with the virus or maintain its elimination through a zero tolerance approach. Beijing has made its position clear, consensus having been reached that the latter is the way forward as the nation battles outbreaks of the highly infectious Delta variant in at least 17 provinces. The quarantining of airport arrivals, mass testing, contact tracing, targeted lockdowns, travel curbs and other methods that have proven so successful in staving off the disease will remain priorities. That has an obvious knock-on effect for neighbouring Hong Kong, where there has been a single locally transmitted case in the past two months and frustration is growing over border reopenings. Hong Kong’s strategy has been shaped with the border with the mainland largely in mind. The city is a base for numerous foreign companies seeking market access to China and sees its future in the Greater Bay Area development plan with Guangdong province, Shenzhen and Macau, while many citizens have business and family links. That has meant the local approach to the coronavirus has dovetailed with – some would even contend it has been determined by – that of Beijing. The mainland’s outbreaks have put paid to hopes that travel restrictions will be relaxed any time soon. But the city’s zero (local infection) tolerance approach and the quarantining and rigorous testing of travellers is starting to have a negative impact. Only Australia and New Zealand share the strategy, while other developed parts of the world believe that they have to treat the virus the same as other highly infectious diseases and learn to live with it. Singapore and Britain are the best examples. With the goal of attaining herd immunity through vaccination, they are allowing business and travel to resume as before Covid-19. Infectious disease experts in the mainland and Hong Kong are divided. But zero tolerance cannot be a long-term strategy when an increasing number of governments are deciding it is not a sustainable approach. Borders can never be fully reopened and mandatory quarantining and tough testing regimes will deter travel. The mainland’s health care system is not as well equipped as those of many Western nations to deal with serious cases of infection, so Beijing’s prudent approach to Covid-19 is understandable. Hong Kong is similarly placed and the uncertainties posed by Delta and potential future strains create significant challenges. Ensuring herd immunity is reached through vaccination, upgrading hospitals to prepare for a crisis and remaining vigilant are priorities. For now, guards cannot be excessively relaxed, but the experiences of other countries can be closely watched and there has to be community-wide debate on when and how to reopen to the world.