China admits conditions in place for a shift in Covid policy

By Alvaro Alfaro

Beijing, Dec 2 (EFE).- After several cities in China eased coronavirus restrictions following protests in recent days, the country’s authorities said that conditions were in place for the country to adjust its anti-pandemic measures.

Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, who is in charge of supervising the country’s “zero Covid” policy, said Thursday that the weakening pathogenicity of the virus and the high vaccination rate of more than 90 percent of the population, among other factors, “created the conditions for tweaking the epidemic response measures,” state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

On Wednesday, the official held a meeting with experts from the National Health Commission in which she heard the “opinions and suggestions of frontline workers on improving epidemic containment measures” and said that the country was facing a “new situation.”

Guangzhou and Shenzhen recently announced the lifting of several pandemic-related restrictions.

Some of their districts will also allow some of the close contacts of the infected to isolate themselves at home instead of in special quarantine centers, which represents a major shift from the government’s current policy.

For over two years, China has clung to its “zero-Covid” policy, which consists of isolating all those infected as well as their close contacts, strict border controls, restrictions on movement and massive PCR test campaigns wherever a case is detected.

Isolation is among the most controversial aspects of the policy given that cities sometimes have to resort to temporary and prefabricated facilities with poor sanitation and problems with access to medical care.

Guangzhou, which recorded anti-Covid protests in the past week, has for weeks been battling an outbreak that has resulted in thousands of daily new cases.

Such figures in the past would have inevitably led to a widespread lockdown such as those imposed in Wuhan, Shanghai and Xian, among others.

However, despite more than 5,000 infections being recorded in the city on Thursday, the city’s residents told EFE that some malls and other establishments have stopped asking customers to show negative PCR tests carried out in the previous 48 hours.

However, they still have to attest through a monitoring application that they have not traveled through an at-risk area.

PCR tests conducted within 72 hours are required in Chinese cities to access public spaces such as supermarkets, parks and stores, giving rise to long lines at the testing booths that have stoked discontent among the population.

There has been a large-scale closure of PCR testing booths in the Chinese capital, which is facing its worst-ever Covid-19 outbreak which has led to multiple lockdowns in the city.

However, unlike in Guangzhou, public places in Beijing continue to require a negative PCR test carried out within 48 hours prior to entry.

This means residents have to continue to get tested to enter their office, take public transport or eat in a restaurant but now face long queues due to a reduced number of testing booths.

According to official figures, 5,233 people have died in China since the start of the pandemic. EFE


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