China Cuts Quarantine Time for Foreign Visitors in First Change Since March 2020

© Photo : TINGSHU WANGWoman wearing a face mask rides on a bus with her husband and friends to a shopping mall to look for a job in Beijing
Woman wearing a face mask rides on a bus with her husband and friends to a shopping mall to look for a job in Beijing - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.06.2022
China’s National Health Commission announced on Tuesday that the COVID-19 safety rules for new arrivals in the country would change for the first time since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. The change comes as China has for several months been battling its largest-ever outbreak of the virus.
According to the new regulations, people arriving in mainland China from elsewhere will now only have to be quarantined at a government-run facility for seven days, followed by three more days in home isolation. Previously, 14 days were required, although significant differences have long existed between national rules and local ones.
Lei Zhenglong, deputy director of the National Health Commission's Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control, told reporters on Tuesday the change was based on “huge amounts of scientific evidence,” including several pilot programs tested in recent months, and “the lessons learned” from recent outbreaks in Shanghai and the northern Jilin Province.
Some Chinese cities have been testing out new quarantine procedures since April, with the port cities of Dalian and Suzhou pioneering the 10-day quarantine rule now adopted nationwide. Beijing, Wuhan, Wuxi, Xuzhou and Zhejiang have also cut time at government-run quarantine centers to seven days, but continue to require another seven days of home isolation.
With China registering its fewest cases in months and most cities reducing restrictions, Lei said it was a good time to make the change. On Monday, the NHC reported that across China, just 16 symptomatic and 84 asymptomatic cases had been detected.
Another official, Wang Liping, a researcher with the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters their research “ has found that the average incubation period of the Omicron variant is shorter – mostly two to four days – and it can be detected within seven days.”
Separately on Tuesday, Lo Chung-mau, the forthcoming health secretary for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), revealed to the South China Morning Post that the city is planning to adopt an even shorter quarantine period called “5+2,” with just five days in hotel quarantine and two in-home isolation.
“But since we are still a few days from taking office, and we do not want to override the policies of the current administration, we would only make further announcements when we take office. I know residents and travelers are looking forward to hearing some good news. We are actively considering these options.”
However, the HKSAR government has attracted criticism for its inferior management of the pandemic compared to the mainland, with the city registering more than a million confirmed cases and scientists suggesting that perhaps half the city has been infected with the virus in the last six months.
On Tuesday, Hong Kong officials recorded 1,685 new cases, the fourth straight day of a reduction in cases, and one new death, bringing the death toll in the city to 9,399.
China’s quarantine rules for foreign travelers have been in place since March 2020, when the country implemented a massive lockdown to control the COVID-19 outbreak centered in Wuhan. While their efforts at stamping out the virus in the country were successful, it had nonetheless spread to other nations, few of which adopted the kind of far-reaching safety protocols as China, and as a result saw uncontrolled outbreaks that killed hundreds of thousands of people. In China, however, society was able to reopen relatively safe from the virus by the summer of 2020, and only in the following year did new, more infectious variants of the virus endanger that refuge.
China’s “Zero Covid” policy, adopted in July 2020, has kept a lid on the new outbreaks, implementing the same kinds of lockdowns used in Wuhan to control, track, isolate and treat all cases of the disease. The effort has limited China’s deaths from COVID-19 to just 5,226 in total and 225,000 cases. However, with the pandemic still going strong elsewhere, communist officials in Beijing have hinted the “Zero Covid” policy could last another five years.
However, the restrictions haven’t come without an economic price, which was reflected in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange’s reaction to the news on Tuesday. Tourism stocks skyrocketed, according to the SCMP, with stock values for rising by 16.54%, Fosun Tourism by 14.39%, and Air China by 10.06%.
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