China reduces quarantine restrictions as Covid-19 cases drop

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China has halved its required quarantine period for international travelers to one week in the first major easing of nationwide restrictions since outbreaks in Shanghai and Beijing this year prompted draconian travel curbs and economic activity.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, also cut a post-quarantine ‘home health monitoring’ period to three days from seven days previously, state media reported on Tuesday, and raised thresholds. that trigger positive test results.

Markets were boosted by the news, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index surging from a loss to a 0.8% gain, while China’s benchmark CSI 300 index of stocks listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen rebounded in the late afternoon to close up 1 percent. hundred.

The relaxation aligns China’s policies with those of Hong Kong, which also imposes a seven-day centralized quarantine requirement on arrivals. But the world’s most populous nation remains an international exception in its commitment to President Xi Jinping’s strict “zero Covid” approach to containing the pandemic.

At the height of Shanghai’s outbreak in early May, many residents of China’s biggest city were confined to their homes for 60 days.

International arrivals faced “hard quarantines” of up to 21 days during this period, and those continuing to Beijing faced an additional 14-day lockdown in the capital.

Although Beijing has never imposed a citywide lockdown like in Shanghai, strict restrictions on public transport and business activities paralyzed large areas of the capital for most of May.

China’s political and financial capitals have slowly come to life in recent weeks. Monday marked the first day that no new cases were reported in Beijing or Shanghai, and Shanghai Disneyland said it would resume operations on June 30.

The announcement of the shorter quarantine period came a day after a state-run newspaper caused panic by quoting Beijing’s party secretary Cai Qi as saying the city would maintain Covid checks during “the next five years”.

The Beijing Daily was quick to clarify that it misquoted Cai, a close Xi ally who promised the capital would remain a “fortress” in the fight against Covid.

Beijing successfully hosted the Winter Olympics in February and is preparing for a five-year Communist Party Congress, where Xi is expected to claim an unprecedented third five-year term as leader of the party and military.

Many people feared China’s draconian quarantine requirements for international arrivals would remain in place until March, when the country’s parliament will formally re-elect Xi as president.

However, cities across China are still routinely imposing random lockdowns when cases are discovered, as well as lengthy quarantines on arrivals from other regions deemed high risk.

Everyone in China also receives a health code on their mobile phone which must remain green for normal travel. Health codes can suddenly turn red for reasons such as being in the same general area as a confirmed Covid case, or even just being a close contact of a confirmed case, resulting in ad hoc home quarantines enforced by local authorities.

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