China reduces quarantine but clings to ‘zero Covid’ strategy amid outbreaks

By Alvaro Alfaro

Beijing, Nov 11 (EFE).- China on Friday reduced quarantines for overseas travelers and infected contacts, a day after the Chinese Communist Party’s top leadership reaffirmed its “zero Covid” policy amid multiple outbreaks in recent weeks.

Travelers arriving in China will have to undergo a five-day quarantine at a designated hotel at their own cost plus another three-day confinement at home, according to a statement by the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council (government).

Quarantine on arrival was reduced in summer from 14 days, or even 21 in some cities, to seven.

Moreover, visitors will need to present a negative PCR test result conducted within 48 hours before boarding unlike the two that were required previously.

China’s borders have been closed to tourism since March 2020 and authorities limit the issuance of new passports for travel not considered essential.

International air traffic at airports is also limited to less than 5 percent of what it was before the pandemic.

The quarantine period for close contacts of those infected with Covid-19 has also been reduced from seven days in a designated facility to five days followed by three-day home confinement.

Under the “zero Covid” policy, it is mandatory for those infected with the virus and their close contacts to quarantine in hospitals or other facilities.

Stock markets in Hong Kong and mainland China responded to the news with strong gains.

The Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s Hang Seng index soared more than 7 percent by 2:30 pm while the Shenzhen and Shanghai indices rose by more than 2 percent. The Hang Seng Index closed up 7.7 percent.

A system under which airlines faced a penalty if their flights brought in Covid-19 cases into the country has also been revoked.

After the announcement, Chinese flight search portal Qunar registered its maximum volume of searches for international tickets in the last year, three times that recorded on Thursday, according to local press reports.

China’s aviation industry has been one of the worst affected by the pandemic.

Financial media recently reported that the eight listed Chinese airlines recorded total losses of 106 billion yuan (14.58 billion) until September.

On Thursday, the CPC’s Politburo Standing Committee declared that “the necessary epidemic prevention initiatives” must not be eased and that the “zero Covid” policy will continue to be implemented “tenaciously,” state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

The committee cited China’s large population, unbalanced regional development and insufficient medical resources as factors for maintaining the strategy.

However, the committee also called for efforts to “boost the effectiveness of epidemic control work” and actions to “rectify superfluous policy steps and a one-size-fits-all approach,” according to Xinhua.

Almost 10,000 infections were detected in the country on Thursday.

Guangzhou, which has 18 million inhabitants, registered 289 symptomatic cases and 2,461 asymptomatic cases.

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