China on Wednesday announced a nationwide easing of tough COVID-19 restrictions that have plagued the world’s second-largest economy and sparked rare protests against the ruling Communist Party.
The new rules are a major relaxation of President Xi Jinping’s signature COVID-free policy, three years after the pandemic and long after the rest of the world has largely learned to live with virus.
However, with vaccination rates still low among China’s elderly and Medical system Still considered unprepared for the wave of infections, Xi has yet to completely abandon strict testing and travel restrictions.
Under new guidelines released by the National Health Commission, the frequency and scope of PCR testing — a major activity that has long become tedious in China without COVID — will be reduced.
The blockade – a major cause of public anger – will also be limited to the smallest extent possible and authorities are required to release areas with no positive cases after five days.
People with non-severe COVID can be isolated at home instead of concentrated government facility.
And people will no longer have to show a green health code on their phone to get in public construction and spaces, with the exception of “nursing homes, medical facilities, kindergartens, middle and high schools”.
China will also speed up vaccinations for the elderly, long considered a major obstacle to zero-COVID relaxation, the health commission said.
‘It’s about time’
Until recently, Xi and China’s propaganda machine hailed the absence of COVID as a victory for the communist regime that has kept the death toll low compared to democratic countries such as the United States.
But rare protests against the strategy broke out across China late last month, with people opposing the restrictions.
The protests expanded into calls for more political freedoms, with some even calling for Mr. Xi to step down, turning into the most widespread protest against the communist regime since the uprising. pro-democracy uprising in 1989 that the military suppressed.
Meanwhile, a stream of data shows the massive impact of zero-COVID on the Chinese economy—with a ripple effect on the world.
The government released data shortly before Wednesday’s announcement that imports in November fell 10.6% year-on-year, the biggest drop since May 2020.
Exports decreased by 8.7% over the same period.
Authorities quickly suppressed the protests, sending security forces into the streets and deploying a high-tech surveillance system against the protesters.
However, they have also begun easing restrictions, with some Chinese cities halting mass testing and travel restrictions.
And once dominated by coverage of the danger of the virus and chaotic pandemic scenes abroad, China’s state-run media have changed their tune dramatically in favor of avoiding the virus. away from COVID-19.
There were immediate signs of relief in China following Wednesday’s announcement.
“It’s time to open up, it’s been three years, we should open up completely,” a Beijing resident who asked to remain anonymous told AFP.
“People need to work and eat, you can’t tell people not to leave the house anymore,” they added.
“If people are worried now, they should stay at home and avoid going out, others need to work and get on with their lives.”
Searches on the country’s largest travel app, Ctrip, for airline tickets ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year have hit a three-year high, state media outlet The Paper reported.
Analysts at Japanese firm Nomura said they expect China’s GDP to rebound next year after policy easing.
However, they warned, China “does not appear to be well prepared for a large wave of COVID infections”.
They may pay the price for their delay in adopting the ‘living with COVID’ approach,” they said in an email.
© 2022 AFP
quote: China announces nationwide easing of Covid-19 restrictions (2022, 7 December) taken December 7, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-12-china- -loosening-covid-restrictions.html
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