Sources told Reuters that China would announce an easing of its COVID-19 quarantine protocols in the coming days and a reduction in mass testing. It is a significant shift in policy after widespread protests fuelled anger over the world’s most rigid restrictions.
Although the number of cases across the country remains close to record highs, there have been some shifts recently, with some cities lifting their lockdowns and a top official stating that the virus’s ability to spread disease was decreasing.
The largest show of civil disobedience in China in years, the protests, which ranged from candle-lit vigils in Beijing to street clashes with police in Guangzhou, have not been mentioned by health authorities when they announced the easing in their regions.
According to sources familiar with the situation, the measures scheduled to be presented include moves to allow positive cases and close contacts to isolate at home under certain conditions, as well as a reduction in the use of mass testing and regular nucleic acid tests.
That is very different from previous protocols, which caused public outrage by locking down entire communities, sometimes for weeks, after just one positive case.
Last week, the anger reached its boiling point with public demonstrations of defiance not seen on the mainland since President Xi Jinping took office in 2012. Moreover, the upheaval occurs when the economy enters a new period of much slower growth than in decades.
A seemingly new tactic in light of the heavy police presence in some cities ahead of the weekend. Shanghai train commuters reported wirelessly receiving an unsolicited document on their phones on Thursday night that stated that life in China would only get better if there were a complete lifting of the lockdown and Xi steps down.
Rules being alter:
Authorities in at least seven districts of Guangzhou’s sprawling manufacturing hub announced the lifting of temporary lockdowns less than 24 hours after violent protests on Tuesday. Schools, restaurants, and businesses, including cinemas, would be permit to reopen, according to one district.
Additionally, easings were announce in Zhengzhou and Chongqing.
There was a sense of official momentum toward a significant shift when Vice Premier.
Sun Chunlan, in charge of COVID efforts, informed a meeting of frontline experts on
Thursday, the Omicron variant was losing its ability to cause disease, allowing China to improve its prevention efforts.
In remarks made public by the official Xinhua news agency, she stated, Our country’s medical and healthcare system has withstood the test after nearly three years fighting against the epidemic.
She stated, Public health awareness and quality have significantly improved, and the overall vaccination rate exceeds 90%.
According to state media, Sun stated a day earlier that China was confront with a new situation in its response to COVID and called for further optimization of policies regarding testing, treatment, and quarantine.
Contrast this with previous messages from a Sun that is typically pessimistic regarding the virus’s imminentness.
In a research note, analysts at Nomura wrote that Sun’s (earlier) speech, in addition to the notable easing of COVID control measures in Guangzhou yesterday, sends yet another strong signal that the zero-COVID policy will complete within the next few months.
“These two events may signify the start of zero-COVID’s end,”
Some communities have begun preparing for changes in Beijing, the capital.
According to residents, a community in the east of the city conducted an online poll this week regarding the likelihood of positive cases isolating themselves at home.
I unquestionably welcome the choice by our private local area to run this vote no matter what the result," expressed Tom Simpson, overseeing chief for China at the China-England Business Committee and an occupant.
He stated that being force into a quarantine facility, where conditions can be grim, to say the least, was his primary concern.
In a Wednesday social media post, Hu Xijin, a well-known nationalist commentator, stated that many asymptomatic coronavirus carriers in Beijing were already in quarantine at home.
Will it reopen next year?
Around the world, there has been an increase in expectations that China may attempt to reopen its borders in the coming year if it can increase vaccination rates among its elderly population, which is hesitant.
If COVID spreads before vaccinations are increase, health experts warn of widespread illness and death.
After the weekend’s protests in Shanghai, Beijing, and other cities, Chinese stocks and markets worldwide fell but later recovered in hopes that public pressure could result in a new approach from authorities.
On Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund said that China’s economy could be hurt by more COVID outbreaks shortly. However, the IMF also noted that policies could be safely adjust to increase economic growth in 2023.
This year, China’s strict containment measures have slowed domestic economic activity and caused supply chain disruptions in other nations.
Following downbeat information in an authoritative study on Wednesday, the Caixin/SP Worldwide assembling buying supervisors’ record showed production line movement shrank in November for a fourth successive month.
Although the public’s dissatisfaction with stringent measures appears to have prompted the shift in COVID policy, authorities are also looking for demonstrators to question.
Between Saturday and Monday, at least 27 demonstrations were held across China, according to the China Dissent Monitor, which is run by Freedom House, which the US government funds. The ASPI think tank in Australia estimated 51 demonstrations in 24 cities.
Kevin Huang and Ellen Zhang in Beijing, in addition to Julie Zhu in Hong Kong; Greg Torode, John Geddie, and Marius Zaharia wrote; Michael Perry, Robert Birsel, and Conor Humphries did the editing.