Following demonstrations against the stringent policy that evolved into demands for broader political liberties, China said Wednesday that Covid restrictions would be loosened across the country.
Unrest not seen since the 1989 pro-democracy riots was sparked by anger over China’s zero-Covid policy, which entailed widespread lockdowns, ongoing testing, and quarantines even for those who are not affected.
The National Health Commission recently released new guidelines that will reduce the frequency and scope of PCR testing, which has long been a laborious necessity in zero-Covid China.
Lockdowns will also be reduced, and individuals with milder cases of Covid may isolate at home rather than in centralized government facilities.
Additionally, save for “nursing homes, medical institutions, kindergartens, middle and high schools,” users will no longer need to display a green health code on their phone to enter public buildings and areas.
The new regulations do away with the mandatory quarantines for those who have mild illnesses or no symptoms.
The revised guidelines stated that “asymptomatic infected persons and mild cases who are eligible for home isolation are typically isolated at home, or they can voluntarily elect centralised isolation for treatment.”
They said, “Scope and frequency of PCR testing to be further curtailed; mass PCR testing only carried out in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and high-risk work units.”
“People traveling between provinces do not need to test upon arrival or produce a 48-hour test result.”
According to the NHC, China will also quicken the immunization of the elderly, which has long been viewed as a significant barrier to Beijing easing its zero-tolerance policy for Covid.
Late last month, rare protests across China against the zero-Covid campaign of the governing Communist Party erupted.
More political freedoms were demanded, and some even called for President Xi Jinping China step down.
Authorities tightened down on further protest attempts while loosening some restrictions; some Chinese towns temporarily lifted mass testing and movement restrictions.
Beijing, the nation’s capital, announced this week that passengers were no longer required to present a negative virus test obtained within 48 hours in order to use public transportation, where many companies have fully reopened.
The same guidelines were published by financial capital Shanghai, which this year saw a severe two-month lockdown. Residents there are now permitted to attend outdoor spaces like parks and tourist destinations without having recently passed a test.
And China’s carefully regulated media, which was previously dominated by doom and gloom coverage of the virus’ dangers and images of pandemic havoc outside, radically changed tone to back a gradual move away from zero-Covid.
According to Guangzhou-based medical scholar Chong Yutian, the prevalent Omicron strain is “not at all like last year’s Delta variety.” This was said in an article by the China Youth Daily, which is controlled by the Communist Party.
“After infection with the Omicron version, the great majority will experience minimal or mild symptoms, and very few people will experience more severe symptoms; this is already the case for the Omicron variant.”