China to ease strict Covid-19 policies
China has announced several significant changes to how it will manage Covid-19 outbreaks. Strict lockdowns affecting entire communities will no longer be implemented, while those arriving in the country will not be subjected to quarantine, the Chinese National Health Commission (NHC) announced on Tuesday.
The virus behind the Covid-19 disease is becoming increasingly “less pathogenic,” the NHC said in a statement explaining the decision to downgrade it from an infection requiring “A level control measures” to one demanding the less strict “B level” response.
“Although the number of people infected is large, the pathogenicity [of Covid-19] has decreased significantly compared with the early stage [of the pandemic], and the resulting disease will gradually evolve into a common respiratory infectious disease,” the NHC said.
The new classification will take effect on January 8, 2023, the statement said. Under the new rules, those infected with Covid-19 will no longer be subjected to “isolation,” and their close contacts will not be identified, the NHC said.
People coming to China will still need to take a Covid-19 test 48 hours before departing to the country but will not have to do another one upon arrival, the statement said, adding that quarantines for new arrivals were being “cancelled.”
Downgrading the Covid-19 response level also means that the regional authorities will not be able to lock down entire communities in case of an outbreak.
The new set of measures China is introducing to combat Covid-19 will focus on vaccination and protecting those aged 65 or older. The health authorities across the country are also being told to stockpile the necessary drugs and prepare hospital beds to be able to treat Covid-19 patients when needed.
China has been pursuing a so-called ‘zero-Covid’ policy with strict lockdowns and widespread testing since the first outbreak of the pathogen in the city of Wuhan in late 2019. Beijing significantly relaxed the curbs earlier in December, which prompted a spike in new infection numbers.
Bloomberg claimed last week that up to 248 million people, or nearly 18% of China’s total population, was infected with Covid-19 in December alone. The NHC officially claimed only 14,285 infections last week, along with seven deaths.