China is reversing its strictest Covid policies, which included quarantine camps, just one week after historic protests against the controls.
People with Covid who have mild or no symptoms can now isolate themselves at home rather than in state facilities.
In addition, they are no longer required to show tests at the majority of venues and can travel more freely within the country.
Citizens have expressed both relief and concern regarding the abrupt changes.
“Finally! I will no longer be concerned about contracting an infection or being quarantined as a close contact “One individual posted on Chinese social media.
Another remark: “Can someone explain what is occurring? Why is the change so abrupt and significant?”
China is finally abandoning its zero-Covid policy and preparing to “live with the virus” like the rest of the world, as evidenced by the sweeping changes. This comes at a time when the nation is facing its largest wave of infections – over 30,000 per day.
Some online users have questioned the rapid opening – “Numerous elderlies would become infected, and the medical system would be overwhelmed. It starts now, “one user contributed.
Others, however, celebrated the relaxation of a policy that had governed their lives for nearly three years.
China had previously compelled people with Covid and their close contacts to quarantine camps. This policy was incredibly unpopular because it separated families and displaced individuals from their homes.
Some of the centers were also said to have inadequate living conditions and staff.
Throughout the year, videos have shown guards forcibly removing people from their homes after they refused to leave. Last week, viral footage from Hangzhou showed a man fighting against officials.
Wednesday, China’s National Health Commissioned announced an array of other new liberties. They stated that they desired to reduce testing. In the majority of situations where a result is required, lateral flow tests would replace PCR tests, although PCRs are still necessary for schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.
Lockdowns would continue but would be limited to more targeted areas, such as specific buildings, units, or floors, as opposed to entire neighborhoods or cities.
The lockdown of “high-risk” areas should be lifted within five days if no new cases are discovered. This year, several cities in China endured months-long lockdowns despite a small number of cases.
Schools can remain open with student attendance if there is no campus-wide epidemic.
People must be able to access emergency medical care and escape routes without hindrance from pandemic measures, according to the new guidelines, which also prohibit blocking fire exits and doors.
It follows reports of people being locked inside their homes during a quake and buildings being sealed due to lockdown procedures.
Recent protests were sparked by a fatal fire in the western Xinjiang region; however, Beijing denies that the victims were unable to escape the building due to lockdown measures.
Additionally, there have been repeated reports of delays in providing emergency medical care to people in restricted areas.
Wednesday, authorities also emphasized the need to expedite the vaccination of senior citizens.
The National Health Commission stated that “all localities should adhere to… improving the vaccination rate among those aged 60 to 79, accelerating the vaccination rate among those aged 80 and older, and making special arrangements.”
The easing of restrictions follows the country’s largest protests in decades. Last week, crowds in multiple cities protested lockdowns and pandemic restrictions by taking to the streets.
In some locations, protests escalated into direct criticism of President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party, a significant act of defiance given China’s intolerance of political dissent.
Since the November 24-26 protests, Chinese authorities have begun to unlock certain cities. Officials had also begun to downplay the dangers posed by Covid.
Last week, China’s vice-premier, Sun Chunlan, announced that the pandemic was entering “a new situation” and that the virus’s ability to cause disease was diminishing.
Experts have cautioned that any easing of zero-Covid in China would have to be done gradually, as the country’s healthcare system could be overwhelmed by a sharp increase in cases.
According to health professionals, accelerating the vaccination of its elderly population is essential.
Prof. Ivan Hung of Hong Kong University asserts, “Vaccination is the key to China’s exit from Covid with minimal damage, and three doses of vaccination are required.” He added, “Hopefully before Chinese New Year [in January 2023], as there will be a large population movement traveling and returning home.”
China’s international borders remain closed to the majority of foreigners, but some analysts believe this rapid change indicates the country may reopen in the coming year.
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