China announced essential changes to its zero-Covid policy on Wednesday, December 7. This marks the first time federal authorities have budged on the long-standing approach. Local governments had already taken steps in cities around the country to ease restrictions over the weekend, but the silence in Beijing was deafening.
In a statement on state broadcaster CCTV, the State Council outlined ten new guidelines that signal Beijing is ready to move on from policies that have isolated it from the international community and crippled its economy. This is the first approved change in Covid policy from central government authorities since the pandemic began.
The most significant modifications include the following:
- Abandoning QR codes.
- Allowing home quarantine for infected persons.
- Limiting lockdowns.
- Easing domestic travel limitations.
QR codes on the popular social media app WeChat have been the primary way China has monitored its citizens' health status. The codes are divided into three colors – red, yellow, and green – that determine whether a person can leave their home, enter public spaces, or need to be transferred to centralize quarantine facilities.
For nearly three years, all public places have been carefully monitored by security forces to ensure people are up to date on testing and meet health requirements to participate in society. A 48-hour negative test was required to have a green code. This policy is set to end as people can enter most places without a negative test. Nevertheless, a few exceptions remain, including nursing homes, medical institutions, and secondary schools. Furthermore, private businesses will now be able to determine their strategies for curbing infections.
Centralized quarantine was also scrapped for asymptomatic people or who exhibit mild symptoms. They will be allowed to quarantine at home in a long-awaited move from the government. Locals have long lamented the rollout of quarantine facilities, often described as chaotic and confusing, with many reporting poor conditions. Health officials have also culled pets and forcefully removed elderly residents from their homes in the middle of the night.
Moreover, only "high-risk areas" will now undergo lockdowns with limits on duration. If no new cases have been discovered in five days, the lockdown should be lifted. Fire exits and stairwells should not be blocked, and gated entrances should be clear so medical professionals can enter and exit without disruption.
Finally, domestic travel restrictions will be eased. A negative test and green health code will no longer be required to board trains, busses, or planes. During the past three years, entire cities and provinces have sealed off their borders and ceased all transportation routes to limit spread. Many migrant workers and businesspeople have been stranded after snap lockdowns with no definitive end. Although there have been periods when cases were low and domestic travel was more accessible, the precarious nature of the policy made it impossible to plan accordingly.
International travel restrictions will still be in place for the moment. Although these restrictions have eased over time, China remains one of the world's only nations requiring quarantine to enter its borders. As it joins the international community in living with the virus, it will inevitably scrap its quarantine policy as life begins to go back to normal for its 1.4 billion citizens.
Share This Post On
Leave a comment
You need to login to leave a comment. Log-in