China will remove quarantine requirements for inbound travelers from January 8 as the country dismantles remnants of the zero Covid regime that has sealed it off from the rest of the world for nearly three years.
On Monday, the National Health Commission unveiled the move as part of a broader announcement that downplayed the country’s management of Covid-19 and definitively abandoned a host of other preventative measures.
More than 90 percent of cases of the Omicron variant have been “mild or asymptomatic,” the NHC said, part of a shift in tone toward the coronavirus as it rages across a country where until recently very few of the 1.4 billion population had been infected. with it.
The government, which this month also removed the requirement to quarantine in central facilities, is now battling a severe winter outbreak with estimated cases. spiraling into hundreds of millions And health services are under pressure.
Models have estimated that the virus could lead to close to a million deaths, even though public data in China has stopped reflecting the situation on the ground and other no-Covid rules such as mass testing have largely expired.
Chinese stocks led gains across the Asia-Pacific region on Tuesday after the announcement, with the CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks up 1.2 percent. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is closed.
China It pursued a strict anti-coronavirus policy shortly after the pandemic first emerged, locking down many of its largest cities and imposing quarantine requirements on foreign arrivals as part of an effort to eradicate the virus within its borders.
Late this year, politics began to unravel as authorities struggled to contain an outbreak in several cities, including the capital, Beijing. protesters They took to the streets in November In a rare show of defiance of the central government’s approach, which was significantly watered down shortly thereafter.
Monday’s announcement signals the end of the zero-Covid regime that has transformed China’s relationship with the outside world, which for long succeeded in limiting transmission of the virus that has swept every other advanced economy.
Sometime this year, a quarantine rule requires travelers to spend three weeks in a hotel room. The current policy of five days in a hotel followed by three days at home will end on January 8. Arrivals will still be required to obtain a negative Covid test result within 48 hours of departure and wear masks on flights.
The sudden removal of restrictions has already put enormous pressure on China’s healthcare system, Especially in Beijingwhich was one of the centers of the outbreak before the policy was abandoned and was thought to be one of the best prepared towns.
Recent economic data has highlighted the costs of policy. Retail sales, a measure of consumer spending, fell 5.9 percent year-on-year in November, worse than analyst expectations, while the economy is expected to miss a 5.5 percent annual growth target that was already its lowest in decades.
But analysts have also warned of the economic and business costs of the virus itself sweeping the country Apple is among the weak For more supply chain issues.
Under Zero Covid, citizens in China had to take the test every few days at booths around major cities and scan a code on their phones to enter buildings. These practices have largely disappeared as cases multiply rapidly, although as recently as late November, individuals in Shanghai were still being moved to central quarantine because they had been in close contact with positive cases in the bars.
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