At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, two countries stood at the opposite extreme: Sweden and China. The Scandinavian country can only be described as having taken a free-for-all approach, or you do whatever you like. In China, the goal has always been zero infection. Today, the opposing poles may be represented by Britain and China. On the mainland, the authorities have taken to shutting down anything and everything, even if there is just a single case. That worked well in the beginning. But since we are not dealing with something like severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) or the bird flu that could be wiped out or burned out, mainland Chinese could face severe and unexpected restrictions indefinitely. And since Hong Kong has made it a policy priority to open borders with mainland China before doing that with the rest of the world, the tough restrictions and quarantine rules are likely to be in force so as to be in sync with the rest of the country. It’s no surprise that the city has now decided to axe quarantine-exemption privileges for most travellers in categories that are supposed to be crucial for its economy and daily operations such as top executives and diplomats. This is, however, not a sustainable solution. Truth is the first casualty of a pandemic Britain’s alternative may be seen as a permanent solution, but has caused and will cause more deaths. In the beginning, it shut down everything, then moved to restricting only those at highest risk. Now, it is essentially letting the pandemic burn itself out. It has been much criticised, especially by health care workers, as hospitals are overloaded and many have died without proper medical attention. There is a middle way. Arguably, Canada, and especially the province of Ontario, has pursued it with some success. At the beginning, or almost the beginning, everything was shut down. Then authorities loosened up gradually over time. When an anticipated surge came, tough restrictions and quarantine were imposed again. Though there were complaints about an overload of health care cases, the situation was never as bad as experienced in Britain and in most states in the US. The infection waves ebb and flow, and the levels of restriction and relaxation were adjusted accordingly. That never works perfectly but it’s a lot better than just a free-for-all or complete lockdowns. As a universal vaccination was rolled out, the fully immunised rate (those given two jabs) is now 74 per cent in Canada and about the same rate in Ontario. What really makes Hong Kong tick This policy of attack and retreat allows the authorities more room to manoeuvre, businesses to recoup their losses and students to catch up at school. While there is no reason to idealise this Ontario approach, which has its own flaws, especially in implementation, at least for now, life has almost returned to normal. In China, though, that elusive, if not impossible, goal of “zero Covid” is unlikely to be revised until after the Winter Olympics, to be held from February 4-20. Hong Kong will probably follow suit until then.