Dec 2, 2022: According to a report by Reuters, some communities in Chinese cities where COVID-19 is still spreading are easing off on testing requirements and quarantine rules in a marked shift in virus policies after widespread protests across the country.
China is set to announce an easing of its COVID quarantine rules in coming days and a reduction in mass testing, sources told Reuters, even as cases nationwide remain near record highs.
Some cities lifted some district lockdowns this week, as Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who oversees COVID efforts, said the ability of the virus to cause disease was weakening.
The new message aligns with what health authorities around the world have said for more than a year, but contrasts sharply with China’s consistent warnings throughout the pandemic over how deadly the disease was.
The policy shift comes after anger over the world’s toughest curbs fuelled protests unprecedented in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.
China’s COVID policies have taken a significant toll on its economy, choking everything from domestic consumption, to factory output, to global supply chains, and causing severe stress for hundreds of millions of people.
While government authorities in cities that have lifted lockdowns did not mention the protests in their announcements, national health officials have said China will address the “urgent concerns” expressed by the public.
On the ground, however, some communities in Beijing and elsewhere have already allowed close contacts of people carrying the virus to quarantine at home, while some shopping malls in the capital have reopened from Thursday.
One residential community in east Beijing on Friday sent a notice to say those who have “no social activities” no longer need to get tested regularly “to reduce the risk of crowding.
Some areas in Guangzhou, where protesters only days ago clashed with police, resumed dine-in services, and residents are no longer asked to present negative PCR tests to enter, state media reported.
In nearby Shenzhen, some people will be allowed to quarantine at home. About a thousand kilometres to the west, in Chonging, a wide range of businesses from barber shops to gyms were allowed to resume this week.
All those cities have been reporting hundreds or even thousands of cases a day – high numbers by China’s standards.
The easing measures due to be unveiled include a reduction in the use of mass testing and regular nucleic acid tests as well as moves to allow positive cases and close contacts to isolate at home under certain conditions, the sources familiar with the matter said.
Earlier this year, entire communities were locked down, sometimes for weeks, after even just one positive case, with people stuck indoors losing income, having poor access to basic necessities, and struggling to cope mentally with the isolation.
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