China eases sanitary measures and reduces large-scale PCR tests

China announced on Wednesday a general easing of health rules against Covid-19, abandoning its strict approach to the virus after historic demonstrations of anger across the country. According to the new instructions unveiled by the National Health Commission (NHC) – which has the value of a ministry – “asymptomatic infected people and mild cases who can be isolated at home will generally be so”.

This is a dramatic change from the norm that has been in place for almost three years, which required that any positive case be taken to a quarantine centre. In addition, the country will “further reduce the scope of nucleic acid tests and reduce their frequency”, whereas until then it had asked residents to test themselves several times a week to be able to access any public place.

Another novelty announced on Wednesday: it will now be possible to travel from one Chinese province to another without having to present a negative PCR test less than 48 hours old, and no test will be required on arrival either.

Worrying figures

The announcement comes a few hours after the official publication of new worrying figures for the second world economy: in November, China saw its exports and imports collapse, under the combined effect of its zero-Covid policy and a lackluster request. Exports fell 8.7% year on year, according to China Customs. This is the sharpest fall since February 2020, at the start of the pandemic, when China was practically at a standstill.

This national easing of restrictions, which follows relaxations announced in recent days by several Chinese cities and provinces, is also decreed ten days after a wave of demonstrations.

In a dozen cities in the country, the demonstrators, mostly young, had shouted their weariness of the harsh health policy, some even demanding the departure of President Xi Jinping.

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