China removes domestic quarantine rules in decisive breakthrough with Covid-free regime

China will remove quarantine requirements for domestic travelers from January 8 as it sheds the remnants of a Covid-free regime that shut the country off to the rest of the world for nearly three years. five.

The National Health Commission on Monday unveiled the move as part of a broader announcement aimed at downgrading the nation’s ability to manage Covid-19, a virus currently sweeping the nation and emphatically foregoing a host of other precautions.

The NHC says more than 90% of omicron variant cases are “mild or asymptomatic”, part of a shift in attitudes towards the coronavirus as it rages across a country where, until recently, very few people out of 1.4 billion people have it.

The government, which this month also removed the requirement for positive cases to be isolated in central facilities, is currently battling a severe winter outbreak with estimated cases. spiral into hundreds of millions and health services under pressure.

Models have estimated the virus could lead to nearly 1 million deathsalthough China’s public data has stopped reflecting the real situation and other Covid-free rules like mass testing have largely ended.

China pursued a strict Covid-free policy soon after the pandemic first emerged, locking down many of its largest cities in years of implementing the policy and imposing quarantine requirements on people. foreigners arriving as part of efforts to eliminate the virus within their borders.

Later this year, this policy began to break down as authorities struggled to contain outbreaks in many cities, including the capital Beijing. Protesters took to the streets in November in a rare act of defiance to the central government’s approach, which was dramatically eased shortly thereafter.

Monday’s announcement signals the end of a Covid-free system that has transformed China’s relationship with the outside world and has for a long time successfully limited the transmission of a virus. swept through every other advanced economy.

At one point this year, quarantine arrival rules required travelers to stay in hotel rooms for three weeks. The current requirement is 5 days in the hotel, followed by 3 days at home which will end on 8/1.

The sudden removal of restrictions has put enormous pressure on China’s healthcare system, especially in Beijingwas one of the epicenters of the outbreak before the policy was repealed and is said to be one of the most prepared cities.

Recent economic data have highlighted the economic costs of policy. Retail sales, a measure of consumer spending, fell 5.9% year-on-year in November, worse than analyst expectations, while the economy may fall short. The 5.5% annual growth target is already the lowest in decades.

But analysts have also warned of the economic and corporate costs of the virus itself as it sweeps the country, with Apple among the vulnerable to further supply chain problems.

In the absence of Covid, citizens in China are required to check in every few days at booths across major cities and then scan codes on their phones to enter buildings. Such practices have largely disappeared as cases rapidly increased, although as recently as late November, individuals in Shanghai were still placed in concentrated isolation because they had been in close contact. with positive cases in bars.

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