China announces easing of quarantines

Despite the recent increase in cases in the country, China announced on Friday some relaxations to its strict policy against the coronavirus, such as reducing the quarantine time for direct contacts with infected people or for travelers arriving in the country from abroad. Even so, the authorities have made it clear that this does not mean the end of the zero covid policy, which will continue to be implemented with adjustments to deal with outbreaks of the pathogen.

With the new rules in hand, those who arrive in China from abroad must remain in quarantine in a designated hotel for five days, two less than until now, plus another three at home, all paid out of pocket. In addition, now it will be enough to obtain a negative PCR test carried out in the previous 48 hours to board, and not two as previously required.

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Ismael Arana Hong Kong. Correspondent

The revocation of the airline sanctions mechanism was also announced, according to which the detection of covid cases among passengers upon arrival in China caused the cancellation of the route for weeks.

Chinese borders have been sealed to tourism since March 2020, and the authorities have limited this time the granting of new passports for travel not considered essential. These policies have had a devastating effect on the number of flights (less than 5% of those before the pandemic) and the Chinese aviation industry: according to the latest reports, the eight listed Chinese airlines have collectively registered losses. of almost 15,000 million euros until September.


Quarantines for close contacts are reduced from 7 to 5 days in a center

Another of the measures announced today is that those considered close contacts of those infected with covid will see their quarantine reduced from 7+3 (seven days in a quarantine center plus three at home) to 5+3. In addition, those considered secondary contacts (contacts of the contacts of a positive) will no longer be subjected to isolation.

Stocks in Hong Kong and mainland China responded with strong gains to the news. Meanwhile, flight search portals such as Qunar reached their maximum volume of searches for international travel tickets in the last year, according to the local press.

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Ishmael Arana

People use their mobile phones outside a closed down business in Hong Kong on November 1, 2022. - The territory's economy recorded its worst quarter in more than two years as slow demand and Covid restrictions affected the financial hub and increased the likelyhood that the city will end 2022 in contraction.  (Photo by Peter PARKS / AFP)

Despite the relaxation of the measures, the authorities have made it clear that this does not mean the total eradication of the covid zero policy. On Thursday, the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee declared that “the necessary preventive measures against the pandemic cannot be relaxed” and that the policy sponsored by President Xi Jinping will continue to be implemented “with determination.”

Among the factors for its maintenance, they pointed out the large population of the country (1,400 million inhabitants), the “unbalanced development” between the regions and the insufficiency of medical resources to tackle a major crisis.


The country will continue to apply the zero covid policy but with adjustments

Even so, they promised to improve the effectiveness of prevention work and “overcome formalism”. The authorities are aware that the restrictions are causing a dent among the population, in some cases agitated by misfortunes such as the death of an intoxicated child whose anticovid measures did not allow him to receive help in time.

Meanwhile, the number of cases has not stopped increasing in recent weeks throughout the country, and the last count showed almost 10,000 positives, a high number by local standards. The latest epicenter of the pandemic is located in the megacity of Guangzhou (19 million inhabitants), a leading manufacturing hub in the Asian giant.

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In recent days, mass testing of its population has been ordered, the confinement of some densely populated districts and the end of face-to-face classes. Even so, the city has managed to dodge to date a total closure like the one that Shanghai experienced in the spring, which caused resounding complaints among its population and great damage to the economy.