After a significant easing of restrictions, people will no longer need to show negative COVID-19 reports or health codes to travel between different parts of China.
The National Health Commission announced changes to COVID controls as part of a formalized set of updates that make it easier for people to stay at home when quarantining.
The Chinese government says that unless a location is defined as high-risk, people can resume their work and local production.
Citizens are given relief from showing negative reports in places other than old age homes, schools, hospitals, and health clinics.
COVID restrictions have become increasingly strict about where you can go in China. In Beijing this year, people were required to scan their health code before entering venues such as malls and stadiums. The code must show a negative status for the past three days; only then are citizens allowed to enter.
The health code app allows the user to communicate a potential infection risk to the authorities by showing a pop-up window. This prevents the user from entering public places and boarding a plane until they have resolved their situation.
The recent guidelines aim to reduce the country’s epidemic rate, which continues to grow three years after the first cases of COVID-19. The ease of rules comes amid the following protests across the country against the zero-COVID policy.
China used to control cases by demanding testing and transparent health codes for entry into certain public areas, domestic travel, medical institutions, and schools.
However, people will now only be tested in those places if they are of high risk and have been previously diagnosed with COVID-19.
People with low-risk or asymptomatic cases who meet certain conditions can quarantine at home. They won’t be forced to go to centralized quarantine centers.
Despite relaxing COVID measures in November, outbreaks and the introduction of stringent zero-COVID policies led to public protests by students and groups of people. But this time, the authorities are preparing to deal with everything and removing testing requirements.
The changes came after the country’s top official last week signaled it may shift away from its current zero-COVID policy. It follows mounting public dissent, the economic decline, and recent record case numbers.
A global vaccination campaign and the emergence of the Omicron variant have led to questioning from health experts about China’s adherence to zero COVID and the sustainability of its strategy. The country came up with a way to stop high-contagion strains in public places by using mass testing, lockdowns, and quarantines.
The virus has largely been restricted to the mainland following years of intense control. But recently relaxed regulations indicate that change may be coming before the country has prepared itself.
Health experts worldwide believe that this easing up in the restrictions might not be enough.
However, the removal of health codes requirement might help in resolving the nationwide protests.