Author： EnglishTeacher 2022-07-25
China is considering a further reduction in its quarantine requirements to lessen the economic impact of strict Covid-19 controls.
The announcement came on the heels of promises by Premier Li Keqiang this week that China would continue to refine its Covid-19 response with more targeted measures in terms of visa access and testing policies as well as allowing more international flights to China.
Wang Liping, an infectious diseases expert with the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told a media briefing on Thursday that the centre is constantly looking to improve its epidemic control playbook.
“We will continue to collect and study new problems and difficulties that locals are facing in dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks … such as whether the quarantine period can be further shortened for people of various risk levels and whether low-risk areas can be more precisely classified … so as to further update and improve the epidemic control measures to minimise the impact on economic and social development and people’s lives,” Wang said.
The reference to quarantine for “various levels of risk” refers to international arrivals as well as close contacts and secondary close contacts of infected people.
Although China has signalled that it plans to gradually relax control measures, senior officials and researchers have insisted China is still following its “dynamic zero-Covid” policy and said the new playbook should be interpreted as being more scientific and targeted rather than a relaxation of the rules.
The quarantine period for inbound travellers and close contacts of infections was cut by half last month to seven days of centralised quarantine followed by three days of health monitoring at home. More visa types were allowed to enter the country and the number of international flights increased.
Experts said it was a move in the right direction and expect more changes such as allowing close contacts to self-isolate instead of going into centralised quarantine facilities.
“It seems that the target of zero Covid-19 infections might transition to zero serious cases and deaths, considering the Omicron BA. 5 sublineage causes much less serious conditions,” said Zhang Zuofeng, chairman of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Earlier this month, Yang Zhanqiu, a virologist with the Wuhan University, told a popular news talk show on state broadcaster CCTV that severe illness caused by the virus had greatly reduced following the emergence of Omicron.
“In the past, it was thought that Sars-CoV-2 mainly caused lung damage. At present, the Omicron variant only causes infections in the throat and upper respiratory tract and results in cold-like symptoms. It does not cause serious symptoms such as pneumonia,” Yang told the programme.
It was the first time state media has allowed Covid-19 to be compared to a cold.
Zhang said the public should also be taught how to protect themselves from infection, deal with mild symptoms and self-isolate at home. He also said more effective mRNA Covid-19 vaccines should be imported to protect the elderly and high-risk groups.
“When people are prepared psychologically to accept change and have confidence that most of them can deal with or treat Covid-19 infections at home, only a few of those with severe symptoms will go to hospital for treatment,” Zhang said, adding this would help prevent the hospital system “crashing”.