Chinese cities loosened coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday signalling a shift from the staunch Covid Zero regime, state-run media outlets reported.
Authorities said that people infected with Covid can now quarantine at home, but only those who have mild or no symptoms will be allowed to do so. This announcement marks a significant shift which shows China could start living with the virus, the Guardian reported
The Chinese National Health Commission (NHC) directed officials to stop launching temporary lockdowns. It also ended testing and health code requirements for people travelling across China, allowing people to move around freely ahead of the lunar new year holiday period.
Earlier, not only the infected person but their close contacts including children and the elderly were taken to institutional quarantine centres which have been accused of holding people against their will and even beating people kept inside those quarantine centers.
“Asymptomatic persons and mild cases can be isolated at home while strengthening health monitoring, and they can transfer to designated hospitals for treatment in a timely manner if their condition worsens,” the NHC said in a statement, accessed by the Guardian.
Schools have been instructed to operate normally until any outbreaks are reported.
Rules Eased for Beijingers
The Global Times said Beijing residents will not be required to present a negative RT-PCR test report before entering public venues like supermarkets, office buildings and parks.
They, however, will have to scan their health codes before entering those places.
The Global Times said that as dictated by the ninth edition of China’s COVID-19 control protocols and newly released 20 measures, measures to control the spread Covid have been optimised in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
Along with capital Beijing, 50 other cities have announced similar measures to relax testing protocols for public venues.
The Chinese government has tried to put a positive spin on the developments in order to prevent its people and critics of Covid Zero from thinking that the restrictions have been loosened due to the protests earlier in November.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China’s approach to stamping out Covid was science-driven and effective. She said it bought precious time for the authorities to develop vaccines, protected people’s lives and lowered the impact of Covid on socioeconomic development.
However, investors across the world and economists fear that China, the world’s second largest economy, has landed severe blows to its economic growth due to Covid Zero policy.
Factories remain closed and production remains halted hurting global supply chains and economists are forecasting a 3% GDP growth, far lesser than the previously expected 6% and 8% annual growth projections.
There has been some level of acceptance from local governments that the Chinese citizens were growing frustrated under the Covid Zero regime, of which Chinese President Xi Jinping is a big fan.
Not All Measures Relaxed
Though measures have been relaxed, Beijing residents wanting to visit internet cafes and bars will have to present negative RT-PCR test reports taken no less than 48 hours earlier. Customers will also require 48-hour negative results to dine inside restaurants.
In Beijing, residents will also require a negative test report taken no less than 48 hours earlier to enter elderly care institutions, child welfare institutions, in-patient medical institutions and schools, the Global Times said in a report.
The changes came only after hundreds of Chinese citizens including students from Tsinghua and Peking universities marched demanding loosening of Covid Zero measures. Xi met EU Council President Charles Michel this week and denied that the protests are a reflection of public dissent.
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