BEIJING – Asymptomatic and mild positives will be able to quarantine at home without being sent to centralized facilities. It accelerates with vaccination for the elderly. Abolished tests to enter most public places (except kindergartens, aged care facilities and schools) and the obligation to show negative tests when traveling within the country. High-risk areas should be defined in detail (individual apartments and floors of buildings) and not target residential compounds or districts indiscriminately. Schools will have to remain open if there are no outbreaks. It is forbidden to block the emergency exits of places in lockdown. Close contacts of the positives will be able to choose whether to isolate themselves at home for 5 days or go to a quarantine center. High-risk areas that do not report cases for 5 consecutive days will have to exit the lockdown immediately. Restrictions on the sale of cold medicines will be lifted. These are some of the ten very important innovations announced by the Chinese National Health Commission: the strongest signal, after the protests of recent days, that the Chinese is preparing, after three years, to live with the Covid, as in the rest of the world. And try to fix a lame economy.
Some of these measures had already been implemented in recent days in several cities, but now the guidelines are nationwide. “A big step forward,” said Zhiwei Zhang, chief economist at Pinpoint Asset Management. “I expect China to fully reopen its borders by mid-2023.”
A great victory for those who have taken to the streets in recent days contesting President Xi Jinping’s health policies. Obviously the Party is not (and cannot do) easing in relation to the latest protests: for this reason it portrays its change as an evolution of past victories, rather than a yielding to pressure from public opinion.
The changes aren’t a complete dismantling, yet, of “zero Covid,” but they nonetheless represent a major easing of the measures that have dragged the economy down by disrupting the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people, forcing many small businesses to close and bringing youth unemployment to nearly 20%, a record high.
Meanwhile, Beijing has approved 4 new vaccines for emergency use.