Explaining the changes in China’s ‘Zero Covid’ policy

The Chinese government on Wednesday announced a broad easing of strict measures Policy “no Covid”following an unusual outbreak of street protests a week ago.

The changes do not lift policy, but they represent an easing of measures that have dragged the economy down. disturbance of daily life hundreds of millions of people, forcing many small businesses to close and driving youth unemployment to record highs.

Here are the highlights from notification.

The new regulations take China away from the use of PCR tests and digital tags used to indicate possible exposure to the virus. Mass testing will no longer be conducted in areas that are not considered “high-risk”, an indication for areas with positive cases. The high-risk category is currently limited to buildings, units, floors, or households, rather than including neighborhoods.

PCR tests and health codes will no longer be checked when traveling between regions in China.

Unlike the unpopular rule that forces many infected people to stay in temporary isolation facilities and hospitals, those infected with mild symptoms are now free to isolate at home. Close contacts are also allowed to isolate at home and will be discharged from the hospital when they test negative on Thursday.

Authorities have adjust some of these rules in early November, when they lifted the stay-at-home order for close contacts, forcing tens of millions of people to stay at home.

The measures limit the power of local officials to impose lockdowns and ensure they are lifted quickly. Local governments can still lock down buildings in the event of a positive case, but they cannot restrict movement and suspend business in areas outside of the specific “high risk” designation. body. For “high-risk” areas, the guidelines mandate that the lockdown be lifted if no new positive cases are detected for five consecutive days.

In the locked down areas, authorities are strictly prevented from blocking exits and public exits, a possible concession for recent protesters. Blocked exits have been widely discussed as a major cause of excess death in a building fire In the western region of Xinjiang, a disaster laid the groundwork for mass unrest in more than two dozen cities last week.

The government reiterated its commitment to do more to increase immunization rates for older adults. But the new regulations leave unanswered questions about how officials will try to stem the inevitable wave of infections. The Communist Party has speed up vaccination campaign in recent days by approving several new Chinese-made vaccines and publishing interviews with experts who try to assuage fears about the health risks of injections. Vaccine.

But those defenses may not come in time. Siddharth Sridhar, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, said that even if China acted quickly to promote vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, it would still take several months for protection measures. protection is effective. China’s domestic vaccines are also often weaker than vaccines based on newer mRNA technology, and experts generally agree that a third shot is needed to prevent severe illness.

Meanwhile, non-medical interventions, including social distancing, isolation and home isolation, are not enough to prevent large-scale outbreaks, he said.

“There will be a big outbreak at some point, if you are well prepared,” says Dr.

For China, this means booster shots for the elderly, stockpiling enough Covid drugs like Paxlovid in hospitals around the country to help deal with severe Covid cases, and enough hospital beds with ventilators.

Dr Sridhar said: “If they are looking at pivoting, they need to strengthen their defenses because a storm is coming.


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