Shorter quarantine, fewer flight curbs as China adjusts its zero-Covid policies

Covid-19 cases are at a six-month high.

Ilyda Chua | November 11, 2022, 04:38 PM

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China has eased some of its strict zero-Covid rules.

The changes, which kicked in on Nov. 11, come amid a new push to optimise Covid control policies, reported Reuters.

They include:

  • The shortening quarantine times for inbound travellers and close contacts by two days,
  • Scrapped penalties for airlines that bring in infected cases, and
  • Reduced pre-departure testing from twice in 48 hours to once

Close contacts of infected cases will also no longer be identified.

The changes were announced a day after China's new Politburo Standing Committee met to discuss Covid-related matters.

Cases at six-month high

The measures also come at a time when Covid-19 cases are at a six-month high, with major outbreaks in Guangzhou and Beijing, Bloomberg reported.

This marks a significant change in China's notoriously strict zero-Covid stance, which Chinese President Xi Jinping defended as one of the party's greatest achievements in a speech last month.

Not a sign of reopening

However, the National Health Commission (NHC) noted that the changes are neither a relaxation of the rules, nor are they indicative of the nation's opening.

Rather, they are a means of adapting to "the new situation of epidemic prevention and control and the new characteristics of Covid-19 mutation".

It added that the number of people affected by Covid measures should be minimised.

The new rules will require close contacts and travellers from abroad to serve five days of centralised quarantine; the previous requirement was seven days.

Once released from centralised quarantine, the requirement for three further days in home isolation remains, reported Reuters.

China will also be drawing up a plan to accelerate vaccinations, the NHC said.

In response to the news, the yuan strengthened and commodities surged.

Pandemic fatigue

Cities across China have been repeatedly locked down as the nation continues to adhere to its strict zero-Covid policy.

This has led to increasing public fatigue and anger.

Last month, footage emerged of large-scale protests against strict Covid measures in Lhasa, Tibet where residents had been under lockdown for almost three months.

When Wuhan went under lockdown again on Oct. 28, one local told Reuters: "We feel numb to it all. We feel more and more numb."

China's economy has also been crippled by the strategy, with its GDP falling by 2.6 per cent in the three months to the end of June from the previous quarter.

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Top image from Unsplash/Edward He.