Corona pandemic: China relaxes its strict zero-Covid measures – policy

In the fight against the corona pandemic, China has relaxed its strict zero-Covid measures somewhat. In Beijing, the State Council announced a new ten-point plan with relief for quarantine, PCR tests and lockdowns.

The countrywide easing includes that there must be no movement restrictions in non-high-risk areas. As the National Health Commission announced, there should be no loss of production or work. High-risk areas would have to be defined more precisely in the future and can affect individual buildings or just one floor. When traveling, a negative test is no longer necessary.

Isolation also possible at home

In the case of infections without symptoms and a mild course of the disease, it should “in principle” be possible to isolate yourself at home. After a week of home quarantine, two negative PCR tests are then necessary in order to be able to move freely again. If their condition worsens, they can go to designated clinics themselves. Close contacts should isolate themselves at home for five days and then be able to test freely.

A negative PCR test will no longer be generally necessary in the future – except for staff in primary and secondary schools, medical facilities, nursing homes or orphanages, it said. Important state organs, large companies and other special institutions could still act according to their own prevention plans. The authorities had already issued the first “optimizations” to their zero-Covid measures. However, the current simplifications go far beyond that.

Displeasure due to strict restrictions

The pace at which the easing is being rolled out reflects the mounting pressure on President Xi Jinping. The ongoing strict restrictions after almost three years of the pandemic had caused resentment in the huge country. Almost two weeks ago there was the biggest wave of protests in decades in various cities. A strong police presence had then prevented further demonstrations. The protest was directed against exit restrictions for residential complexes or entire districts, forced quarantine, the almost daily obligation to test in some cases and other hard zero-Covid measures.

For a few weeks now, China has been hit by the country’s largest wave of infections since the beginning of the pandemic – even if the absolute numbers are low by international comparison. It is now feared that the numbers could rise significantly again. Experts warn that the poorly developed health system could be overwhelmed.

Number of new infections declining

The Health Commission reported on Wednesday about 25,000 new infections in one day. The numbers have been falling for days after peaking at around 40,000 in late November. Vice Prime Minister Sun Chunlan indicated last week that there could be a change of course. She spoke of a new phase, since the omicron variant was no longer so pathogenic and more people were vaccinated.

However, the vaccination of older people in particular, who are insufficiently protected by vaccines in China, should be promoted. For fear of side effects, older people in the country of 1.4 billion people have so far been vaccinated less. Only 40 percent of people over the age of 80 have received a booster shot. There is also a lack of natural immunity in the population, as isolated China has hardly seen any infections so far.

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