The National Health Commission (NHC) of China Wednesday announced eased COVID-19 regulations. The NHC’s new, more relaxed regulations are the first nationwide change regarding the virus, and a step away from their previous zero-COVID policy.
A ten-point directive been released by the NHC, setting out the new rules. Those with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms can now quarantine in their own homes. In their statement, the NHC said that these people “can transfer to designated hospitals for treatment in a timely manner if their condition worsens.” The frequent lockdowns issued across the country have also been relaxed, as the NHC instructed officials to stop these temporary lockdowns. Their announcement stated: “It is strictly forbidden to block fire exits, unit doors, and community doors,” methods previously used to create blockades in previous lockdowns in order to contain citizens.
In regards to testing, “cross regional migrants” are no longer required to be tested for the virus, and mass testing has been reduced. Testing is now only focused on those who live or work in high risk settings. High risk areas will be identified more accurately, with areas that are labeled “high risk” to be opened up after five days of no positive COVID-19 cases. In addition, the requirement of a negative PCR result has been limited to nursing homes, welfare homes, medical institutions, childcare institutions and schools.
Prior to the changes released on Wednesday, COVID-19 was treated as a highly serious threat, with rules as strict as those China would apply for an outbreak of the bubonic plague or cholera. Facilities were custom built across China for COVID-19 patients and their contacts who were required to quarantine. Such restrictions have continued for three years, leadings to recent anti-lockdown protests in cities across China by those who oppose the strict measures. While this prompted the relaxation of regulations in major cities such as Bejing, the NHC’s ten-point directive is the most significant decrease in severity of COVID rules thus far.