China Orders Big Reversal As Tensions Mount With Protests

( – Last Wednesday, China announced a major rollback in its Zero COVID policies in what is seen as the country’s first step toward reopening its economy nearly three years after the pandemic began.

China’s National Health Commission announced that mass testing, health codes, centralized quarantines, and snap lockdowns have been scrapped for the majority of China’s 1.4 billion citizens.

Under the health commission’s new guidelines, those who test positive for COVID, along with their close contacts, will be permitted to isolate at home if they display only mild or no symptoms.

The restrictions on the sale of therapeutics like fever reducers have been lifted and negative tests will only be required for specific places like nursing homes, hospitals, and schools.

However, the new guidelines will not apply to frontline workers or residents in designated “high-risk areas.”

One of the more significant reversals relates to the government’s citywide lockdowns. The updated guidelines reduce the permitted closure zones from entire districts or neighborhoods to only individual buildings, floors, and residents.

Snap lockdowns will be prohibited and all closures must end after five days if no new infections are recorded. Additionally, in-person classes must resume for schools with no positive COVID cases.

The changes come after weeks of political protests throughout cities in China as public frustration over the government’s Zero COVID policies reach a boiling point after a deadly apartment fire in the locked-down city of Urumqi in the Xinjiang province on November 24.

The health commission’s changes addressed some of the protesters’ demands without explicitly framing the new guidelines as a reaction to the ongoing demonstrations.

In its notice, the commission outlawed the suspension of industries, adding public services like hospitals, police, public transportation, logistics, supermarkets, and utility companies to a “whitelist” of services.

During the NHC’s weekly briefing on Wednesday, senior health officials indicated that China would now transition to COVID mitigation rather than containment.

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