China on Wednesday eased a range of Covid-19 restrictions, including allowing some people to quarantine at home rather than in centralised camps and scrapping virus tests to enter most public venues.
A delivery driver picks up medicine from a pharmacy as Covid outbreaks continue in Beijing (Photo: Reuters)
By India Today Web Desk: China on Wednesday announced a broad loosening of Covid restrictions days after rare protests in over a dozen cities called for President Xi Jinping’s resignation. Residents held blank sheets of paper and flowers to hold silent protests against the government over its zero-Covid policy.
The zero-Covid policy has been stoking public frustration, as many are growing weary of snap lockdowns, lengthy quarantines, and mass testing campaigns.
Then an apartment fire in the northwestern city of Urumqi killed at least 10 people, setting off angry questions about whether firefighters or residents trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls.
Recently, China announced some easing of restrictions, such as the requirement for negative test results in order to board public transport in Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities.
Now under the new guidelines unveiled by Beijing’s National Health Commission (NHC), “asymptomatic infected persons and mild cases who are eligible for home isolation are generally isolated at home,” and the country will “further reduce the scope of nucleic acid testing and reduce testing frequency.”
Any adjustment to zero-Covid policy made by the National Health Commission, China’s top health authority, requires the approval of the State Council, or cabinet. The cabinet has been in favour of the policy which President Xi Jinping claimed was his country’s only way out of the pandemic. Now there seems to be a policy shift.
LESS TESTING, MORE HOME QUARANTINES
China said it will allow patients with mild symptoms to isolate themselves at home and has dropped the requirement for people to show negative tests when they travel between regions.
The directives, issued on Wednesday, also instructed officials to stop launching temporary lockdowns and end testing, The Guardian reported.
That has raised prospects that Beijing may slowly look to align with the rest of the world and start re-opening its economy three years into a pandemic, which erupted in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
But the looser curbs have set off a rush for preventative drugs as some residents, particularly the unvaccinated elderly, feel more vulnerable to the virus.
Earlier, under the zero-Covid policy, patients and their contacts, ranging from immediate family members to distant neighbours, were forced into centralised quarantine facilities, while areas ranging from residential buildings to entire cities could be locked down for days, or even months.
The order stated that “more scientifically and accurately” designated “risk zones” will replace the “quarantine areas” in use now. Anywhere designated high-risk must be opened up after five days of no cases, The Guardian report said.