In a significant retreat from its Covid Zero approach, China has come up with a new set of guidelines designed to allow an easier transition of incoming travelers into the country. The Asian nation continues to enforce strict measures to restrict COVID infections even as the rest of the world has opened to a great degree. While some view the latest move as a prelude to China finally relaxing most COVID-related restrictions, some say it is still too early to come to any conclusions.

New rules

International travelers entering China will now face fewer COVID-related protocols than before as the country has relaxed its COVID Zero policy. One significant change includes reducing quarantine time to five days in a hotel or a state facility followed by three days confined at home. Before this, incoming travelers had to spend seven days in a hotel or government quarantine facility and three days at home.

Another important change comes in the testing requirement, which now asks for only one PCR test before the departure, down from two. While it’s still not as easy to enter China as the rest of the world, the reduced restrictions are expected to boost travelers’ confidence somewhat.

A man disembarking from a Xiamen Airlines in Wuhan in 2020

Photo: Getty Images

The thaw in China’s strict approach comes at a time when COVID cases in the country are reportedly rising, indicating that it is finally getting ready to exist with the virus, as the rest of the world has.

Airlines won’t be penalized

Earlier this month, there was speculation that China was preparing to lift the ban on individual flights that carried positive COVID cases into the country. With the new rules in place, the country has, indeed, decided to scrap the penalty on airlines that fly in COVID-positive passengers.

Policymakers in China have been working towards prioritizing growth and promoting reforms to boost trade and consumer confidence. Doing away with the flight ban rule is being viewed as a step in that direction.

A320 silhouette Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

20 new guidelines

The 20 new rules are supposed to guide officials and authorities in managing the COVID situation in a revised manner. Apart from the quarantine period at a government facility being reduced to five from seven days, some other major rules include:

  • It is no longer required to identify the close contacts of close contacts.
  • People leaving high-risk areas must spend seven days at home rather than at a centralized quarantine facility.
  • Removal of mass testing in most areas, with citywide tests given only when the source of infection is unknown.

Apart from these, the guidelines also ask for better vaccine coverage, especially booster shots for the elderly, improving pandemic control measures on school campuses, and providing adequate supplies and necessary medical care for people in quarantine, among others.

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COVID testing kiosk in Beijing

Cautious approach

The positive effects of the latest development are already visible. Hong Kong stocks rose more than 7% following media reports from China, with similar trends observed in share markets all across the Asia-Pacific.

But some are wondering whether the new guidelines have any long-term implications or if it’s one of China’s short-term measures only. Bloomberg quotes Bruce Pang, chief economist and head of research for Greater China at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc, who said,

“The COVID policy will only be fine-tuned in the short term, with the focus shifting between eliminating cases and making more precise measures.”

Air China planes at Beijing Capital Airport

Photo: Getty Images

Still, the latest revised guidelines are sure to bring cheer not just in China but across the entire Asian continent, which is waiting for a major economic boost once it opens entirely.

What do you feel about China’s latest guidelines? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Source: Bloomberg


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