China announced this Wednesday (7) a general relaxation of anti-Covid-19 health rules and abandoned the strategy of tough measures against the spread of the new coronavirus that generated a historic wave of protests across the country🇧🇷
Anger over China’s “Covid zero” policy, which involves sudden lockdowns, continuous testing and quarantines even for people who are not infected, has led to demonstrations not seen since the 1989 pro-democracy movement.
The authorities tried to repress the protests, but at the same time they started to respond to the demands, first at the local level and now at the national level.
The new guidelines presented on Wednesday by the CNS (National Health Commission) of the Asian country indicate that the magnitude and scope of PCR tests (almost routine under Covid zero) will be reduced.
Lockdowns will also be eased and people with non-severe cases of Covid will be able to self-isolate at home – rather than being sent to government facilities.
In addition, the population must not present a green health code on their cell phone to enter buildings and public spaces, except in “geriatric hospitals, medical institutions, day care centers and secondary and higher education centers”.
“Infected individuals who are asymptomatic and mild cases who can self-isolate at home will generally self-isolate at home,” ending the quarantine requirement at a government facility, the new rules state.
“Massive PCR tests will only be carried out in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and high-risk work units. The scope and frequency of PCR tests will be further reduced”, the authorities added.
In addition, “people traveling between provinces must not present the test result within the previous 48 hours and do not need to take the test upon arrival”.
China will also accelerate vaccination of the elderly population, long seen as one of the main obstacles to relaxing the “Covid zero” policy.
change of speech
Demonstrations against this restrictive Covid policy, implemented by the Communist Party, broke out across the country at the end of last month. Some called for more political freedoms and even for President Xi Jinping to step down.
Since then, several Chinese cities have rolled back some of the tighter restrictions that angered residents.
The capital Beijing, with many businesses already fully reopened, said this week that citizens should no longer test negative in the last 48 hours to use public transport.
Shanghai, which suffered a strict two-month lockdown earlier this year, has announced similar measures and will allow its residents to enter open places such as parks and tourist attractions without showing a recent test.
Even state-controlled media, once filled with grim news about the dangers of the virus and the destruction wrought in other countries, have drastically toned down their reporting to downplay the risks of infection.
Predominantly, the Omicron variant “is nothing like last year’s Delta variant,” said medical professor Chong Yutian in an article published by the Communist Party-owned China Youth Daily.
“After infection with the Omicron variant, the vast majority will have mild or no symptoms, and very few will develop severe symptoms,” he said.
But analysts from the Japanese company Nomura estimated, last Monday (5), that 53 cities in China, with a third of the national population, still maintain restrictions.
This Wednesday’s announcement came hours after the government released new figures showing the strong economic impact of the “Covid zero” policy.
Chinese imports and exports fell in November to levels not seen since early 2020, when the pandemic brought the country to a standstill.
Imports were down 10.6% year-on-year through November, according to the General Administration of Customs. Exports fell by 8.7% in the same period.