Many nations across the Asia-Pacific have implemented guidelines for social distancing and introduced lockdowns to control COVID-19. However, now many leaders face the question of how they will be able to relieve their communities of the protective constraints in place. Who decides when safe is ‘safe enough’, or what level of residual risk is acceptable? Getting this wrong is something no leader can afford. By applying a community-based incremental approach to the easing of lockdowns, tailored to demographic and social stratifications of risk, much of the guesswork can be eliminated.