China announced its first step toward easing its strict zero-COVID policy for incoming travelers.
The nation’s tough policy has led to a seemingly endless string of lockdowns, mass testing, contact tracing and quarantines. Although the restrictions have kept the COVID-19 infection rate relatively low, they have also pummeled China’s economy and tourism sector.
On Friday, the National Health Commission said that they will be “optimizing and adjusting” the restrictions “to adapt the new characteristics of the virus and the new COVID prevention situation.” This includes shortening its quarantine requirements and adjusting its monitoring and control management.
Travelers were previously required to quarantine at a hotel for 10 days at their own expense. However, the mandatory quarantine for inbound international passengers will soon be reduced to five days, followed by three days of home isolation. The pre-departure test requirement within 48 hours of boarding a flight to China will also be cut from two negative tests to one.
As for international travelers who do not have permanent addresses in China, they are still required to undergo a total of eight days of quarantine in hotels.
In the new guideline’s key domestic changes, people who are identified as close contacts of COVID-19 cases will still have to quarantine at centralized government-operated facilities. However, the isolation will be reduced from seven to five days with three days of home isolation.
In addition, secondary contacts are no longer required to undergo quarantine or medical surveillance. Residents traveling to other parts of the country can also spend the required seven days of quarantine at home.
The Chinese government has yet to announce when the changes will take effect.
On Thursday, the government recorded 10,535 domestically transmitted cases, which was reportedly the highest in months.
The National Health Commission noted that the epidemic “is likely to further expand in scope and scale” because of mutations and weather factors.
“We must maintain our strategic determination and conduct epidemic control properly and with scientific precision,” the National Health Commission stated.
Featured Image via Rancheng Zhu