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In major shift from zero-Covid policy, China scraps several controversial rules

BeijingEdited By: Anamica SinghUpdated: Dec 07, 2022, 03:16 PM IST
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Vaccination of the elderly will also be accelerated, something that has been a major obstacle to the relaxation of Beijing's no-tolerance approach to Covid. Photograph:(Reuters)

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The National Health Commission made the announcements, the most significant of which is allowing home quarantine.

In a significant move, China scrapped most of its controversial Covid rules Wednesday, signalling a departure from the country's strict zero-Covid approach. The development comes after massive protests gripped the nation, with people demanding not just loosening of Covid restrictions but also greater political freedom.

State broadcaster CCTV reported that China’s State Council has unveiled 10 new guidelines. The National Health Commission made the announcements, the most significant of which is allowing home quarantine. Several major cities had already loosened requirement of Covid testing this week. But the latest decision is the first official change in Covid policy on a national level and a major step towards reopening.

Under the new plan, the frequency and scope of PCR testing has been reduced. The new rules also scrap forced quarantines for people with no symptoms or with mild cases. Those suffering from non-severe Covid cases can isolate at home instead of centralised government facilities. Lockdowns will also be scaled down. 

"Asymptomatic infected persons and mild cases who are eligible for home isolation are generally isolated at home, or they can voluntarily choose centralised isolation for treatment," the new rules read.

"Mass PCR testing only to be carried out in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and high-risk work units; scope and frequency of PCR testing to be further reduced," they added. 

"People travelling across provinces do not need to provide a 48-hour test result and do not need to test upon arrival."

The health QR codes, that have been a part of the country's Covid policy since early in the pandemic, have largely been scrapped. People will no longer be required to show a green health code on their phone to enter public buildings and spaces. However, it still applies to instances where one needs to enter “nursing homes, medical institutions, kindergartens, middle and high schools".

Vaccination of the elderly will also be accelerated, something that has been a major obstacle to the relaxation of Beijing's no-tolerance approach to Covid.

Anger over China's zero-Covid policy, which involved mass lockdowns, constant testing and quarantines even for people who are not infected, stoked unrest not seen since the 1989 pro-democracy protests.

(With inputs from agencies)

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