Beijing, Dec 21 (EFE).- China eased entry requirements for international travelers on Wednesday despite the country facing a surge of coronavirus infections after authorities lifted the “zero Covid” policy that had been in place since the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
The draconian measures, which saw mass PCR testing and entire communities placed under lockdown to deal with even the smallest outbreaks, drastically reduced economic activity in the country and severely limited people’s ability to move around freely.
The Chinese government recently announced it would be lifting its rules after a wave of unprecedented protests broke out in several cities.
At a press conference on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning claimed that China, which had kept its pandemic rules in place months longer than most other countries around the world, had “taken the lead in resuming work and production globally” and “actively promoted high-level opening up.”
In addition to “optimizing visa policies,” the Beijing government has also “increased international flights in an orderly manner, simplified remote prevention and control measures, and facilitated people-to-people exchanges, thus making a vital contribution to the stability of global industrial and supply chains,” Mao said.
While officials reported over 3,100 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, the true figure is likely far higher, as authorities recently stopped counting asymptomatic cases or people with only mild symptoms.
Cities like Guiyang and Chongqing in the southwest have said that Covid positive cases with only mild or no symptoms should return to work “to better balance epidemic prevention and social and economic development,” Chinese state media reported.
China’s top epidemiologist also told a press conference Tuesday night that deaths of Covid-19 patients who had underlying health issues would also not be counted among coronavirus fatalities.
In recent weeks, Chinese state media has been downplaying the risk of the omicron variant through numerous articles and interviews with experts, a major shift in tone that has accompanied the removal of some of the strictest ‘zero Covid’ measures.
The government also announced this month that it would allow asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic infected people to be isolated in their homes – they previously had to be taken to a quarantine center – and indicated that a negative Covid test would no longer be required to access public places and businesses, with the exception of hospitals and schools. EFE