China about to end the reign of “zero-Covid”?

Several Chinese cities further eased draconian anti-Covid rules on Friday. Among the latter, the abandonment of daily mass testing, one of the tedious pillars of life under the reign of “zero-Covid”. From Friday, the metropolis of Chengdu (southwest) will no longer require a recent negative test result to enter public places or take the metro, but only a green health pass, confirming that they do not have not crossed a “high risk” area.

In the capital, Beijing, health authorities called on hospitals on Thursday to stop refusing care in the absence of a negative PCR test dating back less than forty-eight hours. In the city of Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region (northwest), the authorities announced on Friday that supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and ski resorts would be gradually reopened.

Quarantine at home

This city of more than four million people has suffered one of the longest lockdowns in China, with some neighborhoods closed in early August. An apartment building fire on November 26 killed ten people there, and restrictions have been blamed for delaying relief.

In an analysis published Friday by the People’s Daily, an organ of the ruling Communist Party, several health experts support the measures taken by some local authorities to allow positive cases to remain in quarantine at home. This is a dramatic change from the rules that prevailed until then, which in much of the country still require infected people to be confined to government facilities.

China vis-à-vis the virus “faces new circumstances”

The industrial city of Dongguan (south) thus announced Thursday that people meeting “specific conditions” should be allowed to remain in quarantine at home, without specifying what these conditions are. The tech megalopolis of Shenzhen, also in the south, rolled out a similar policy on Wednesday.

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At the national level, government officials have also signaled that a broader relaxation of the policy could be considered. Speaking to the National Health Commission on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Sun Chunlan acknowledged the low risk of the Omicron variant and the improvement in the vaccination rate, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency. This is why China’s approach to the virus “is facing new circumstances”, she said.

A central figure in Chinese strategy in the face of the pandemic, Sun Chunlan made no mention of the “zero Covid” policy, raising hopes that this strategy, which for three years has upset the lives of Chinese people and the economy of their country, would soon be relaxed.

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