Syaru Shirley Lin, June Park, Feng-Jen Jean Tsai, Radhika Radhakrishnan, Stephen Duckett, and Yasushi Katsuma
Since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a stress test for national and international institutions. In particular, governments have been forced to reckon with how effectively their health, economic, and political systems can withstand a crisis and manage its consequences. In 2020, with public health thrust to the forefront of daily discussion and policymaking, many democracies had to rapidly develop and deploy policies that could both protect the health of the population and uphold individual freedoms. Some democratic societies in the Asia-Pacific region were initially successful in controlling the spread of COVID-19, especially in 2020 and 2021. In these highly digitalized societies, governments relied on data and technology to inform their pandemic-related policies. However, data acquisition, movement restrictions, vaccine requirements, and other policies aimed at controlling the pandemic gradually came into conflict with the democratic values and norms of personal privacy and freedom. While some of these democracies garnered global attention for their successful initial responses to the pandemic, questions about how well they have protected democratic values have remained, as well as questions about the sustainability of those responses over time.