China has rescinded quarantine rules contained in a critical breach of the zero covid regime

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 as the coronavirus rages across a country that until recently infected very few of the 1.4 billion population. .

The government, which this month also removed the requirement to quarantine positive cases in central facilities, is now battling a harsh 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.

On Sunday, a day before the internal quarantine requirement was lifted, the NHC announced that it would no longer publish daily case statistics, handing them over to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC said Tuesday that under the low rating, it will only release Covid data monthly.

Chinese stocks led gains across the Asia-Pacific region, with the CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks up 1.15 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index rose 1 percent. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is closed.

China It has pursued a strict anti-coronavirus policy since the onset of the pandemic, locking down many of its largest cities and quarantining foreign arrivals in an effort to eradicate the virus within its borders.

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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 to the central government, it significantly softened its approach.

Monday’s announcement signaled the end of China’s relationship-altering zero-Covid regime with the outside world, which for long succeeded in limiting transmission of the virus.

Sometime this year, incoming international travelers were required 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.

China’s immigration authority announced on Tuesday that it will resume issuing visas to mainland residents to travel abroad from January 8, in another pivotal development for the country’s reopening. The National Immigration Administration said authorities will also begin issuing Hong Kong entry permits required for work or travel, while resuming visa extensions and new approvals for foreign passport holders on the same day.

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 the lowest in decades.

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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.

Additional reporting by Cheng Ling in Hong Kong

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