China has announced the lifting of strict measures against COVID-19

In a sharp reversal, China has announced a series of measures lifting some of the strictest restrictions against COVID-19, including limiting strict lockdowns and ordering schools without known infections to resume regular classes.

In a 10-point announcement by the National Health Commission on Wednesday, apart from vulnerable places like nurseries, aged care facilities and schools, now clean healthcare will be provided with COVID-19 tests and a smartphone app. document is not required. It also limited the scope of the lockdown to individual floors and buildings rather than entire districts and neighborhoods.

People who test positive for the virus can isolate at home rather than in overcrowded and unsanitary field hospitals, and schools without outbreaks must return to classroom instruction.

The announcement follows recent street protests in a number of cities accused of hitting the national economy hard as the “zero-Covid” policy, now in its fourth year, has hit normal life, travel and jobs.

China has tried to maintain strict policies while maintaining the world’s second-largest economy, but public outrage over the restrictions appears to have finally changed the minds of officials who see “zero-COVID” as superior to the approach of foreign countries. opened in hopes of learning to live with the virus.

“Relevant departments in all areas should further improve their policy stance… and firmly correct the simplistic ‘one size fits all’ approach,” the commission said in a statement on its website.

The announcement comes in the wake of recent protests in several cities.
Jose Luis Magan/AP

Officials, often under intense pressure to prevent outbreaks at the local level, “must resist and overcome formalism and bureaucracy to maximize the protection of human life and health and minimize the impact of an outbreak.” “They should take strict and detailed measures for economic and social development,” the statement said.

Newly reported cases of COVID-19 in China fell from a daily record of 40,000 in recent days to just 20,764 on Wednesday, most of them asymptomatic.

Under the new measures, lockdowns could last longer than five days until additional cases are detected, restrictions on the sale of cold medicines will be lifted and vaccinations for the elderly will be boosted.

Service suspension orders for businesses and transport companies will be lifted and public safety will be more focused, fire exits will no longer be blocked due to lockdown orders.

Recent protests have included calls for leader Xi Jinping to resign. The protests began on November 25 after at least 10 people were killed in a fire in a residential building in the northwestern city of Urumqi. Officials rejected suggestions that firefighters or victims were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls. But the disaster caused a public outcry.

In its announcement, the National Health Commission did not refer to the fire, the protests or any official end to the “zero-Covid” that has been closely linked to Xi’s administration. The policy kept most visitors away from China and disrupted manufacturing and global trade.

    A woman has a typical COVID-19 throat swab
People who test positive will now be able to self-quarantine at home instead of crowded field hospitals.
Andy Wong/AP

For several days now, officials have been gradually lifting the restrictions.

Commuters in Beijing and at least 16 other cities were allowed to board buses and subways for the first time in months without being tested for the virus in the previous 48 hours.

Industrial hubs, including Guangzhou, near Hong Kong, have reopened markets and businesses and lifted many restrictions while maintaining restrictions in neighborhoods with infections.

The government last week announced plans to vaccinate millions of people in their 70s and 80s as a condition for ending the “zero-Covid” restrictions.

Health experts and economists warn that it will be as early as mid-2023 and possibly as early as 2024 before vaccination rates are high enough and hospitals are ready to deal with possible outbreaks of infections.


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