China eases health restrictions in wake of protests

Several Chinese cities further eased draconian anti-Covid rules on Friday, December 2, in the wake of historic protests in recent days to demand an end to restrictions and more freedoms.

The less lethal Omicron variant of the Covid virus allows “more flexibility” in restrictions in China, President Xi Jinping told European Council President Charles Michel, according to comments reported by a European official.

The anger and frustration of the Chinese with regard to the hard line health in the fight against the pandemic had overflowed in the streets last weekend, a mobilization of an unprecedented scale for decades.

Compulsory quarantine

China reacted quickly to stifle the movement, with a heavy police presence on the streets and increased surveillance of social networks. But, in parallel, several cities have begun to relax restrictions, such as abandoning mass daily testing, a tedious pillar of life under the reign of “zero Covid”.

Anyone who tests positive in China must in theory be placed in a quarantine center, with variable comfort. But a radical change in doctrine seems to be at work.

In an analysis published Friday by The People’s Dailyan organ of the ruling Communist Party, several medical experts support the measures taken by some local authorities to allow this quarantine to be carried out at home.

Officials from some neighborhoods in Beijing’s Chaoyang district said the measure is now being applied in their area. The industrial city of Dongguan (South) announced Thursday that people filling out “specific conditions” could carry out the quarantine at home, without specifying what these conditions are. The technological megalopolis of Shenzhen (South) applies a similar policy.

“New Circumstances”

At the national level, members of the government have also signaled that a broader relaxation of the policy could be envisaged. Speaking to the Health Ministry on Wednesday, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan acknowledged the low risk of Omicron variants and the improvement in vaccination rates, according to the state-run China News Agency.

This is why China’s approach to the virus “faces new circumstances”, she said. A central figure in Chinese strategy in the face of the pandemic, Sun Chunlan did not mention the term “zero Covid”, raising hopes that this strategy, which has been disrupting the lives of Chinese people and the national economy for three years, would soon be relaxed. .

From Monday, Beijingers will again be able to take the bus and subway without having to present a negative PCR test result dating back less than forty-eight hours, the town hall announced on Friday. Users will however have to continue to present a health pass to the green, confirming that they have not crossed a “high risk” zone. The same measure has been in place since Friday in Chengdu (South-West).

Also in Beijing, health authorities have called on hospitals to stop refusing care in the absence of a PCR test for less than forty-eight hours.

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