China to lift quarantine on overseas arrivals from Jan 8: report

From March 2020, passengers arriving in China must undergo a mandatory 3-week quarantine


China said on Monday it would lift mandatory quarantine upon arrival, further easing years of strict virus containment measures as the country grapples with a surge in cases.

China, nearly cut off from the rest of the world during the pandemic, is now experiencing an unprecedented surge in infections after the abrupt lifting of restrictions that ravaged the economy and sparked nationwide protests.

Nearly three years of strict border controls came to an abrupt end, with Beijing saying late on Monday that it would lift mandatory quarantines for overseas travelers.

From March 2020, all inbound passengers must undergo mandatory centralized quarantine. It went from three weeks to one week this summer, and to five days last month.

But they will no longer have to do so under new rules that will come into effect on January 8, when Covid-19 will be downgraded from a category A to a category B infectious disease.

“According to the National Health and Quarantine Law, infectious disease quarantine measures will no longer be applied to inbound passengers and goods,” the National Health Commission said.

The move is likely to be welcomed by Chinese citizens and expatriates who have been unable to return and visit loved ones for much of the pandemic.

But just as China faces a wave of cases that studies estimate could kill about 1 million people in the coming months.

Many are now grappling with drug shortages, while emergency medical facilities are overwhelmed by large numbers of unvaccinated elderly patients.

“Currently, China’s Covid-19 prevention and control work is facing new situations and new tasks,” President Xi Jinping said in Monday’s directive, according to CCTV.

He said: “We need to carry out patriotic health campaigns in a more targeted way… to build a community defense line for epidemic prevention and control, and effectively protect the safety and health of the people.”

– “Impossible” Tracking –

Hospitals and crematoria across the country were overwhelmed with Covid patients and victims, while the NHC announced on Sunday it would stop publishing daily national statistics on infections and deaths.

The decision followed concerns that the wave of infections in the country was not accurately reflected in official statistics.

Beijing acknowledged that the scale of the outbreak had become “untraceable” after mandatory mass testing ended.

Last week, the government narrowed the criteria for counting Covid-19 deaths – a move experts say will curb the death toll from the virus.

The winter surge comes ahead of next month’s two major public holidays, with millions expected to return home to be with loved ones.

Authorities expect the virus to hit resource-poor rural areas hard, and on Monday called for guaranteed supplies of medicines and medical care on New Year’s Day and the week-long Lunar New Year holiday in late January.

In recent days, health officials in the wealthy coastal province of Zhejiang estimated that 1 million residents were being infected every day.

The coastal city of Qingdao is also expected to see about 500,000 new infections a day, and the southern manufacturing city of Dongguan is expected to see as many as 300,000 new infections.

Unofficial surveys and modeling based on search engine terms suggest the wave may have peaked in some big cities such as Beijing and Chongqing.

The poll of more than 150,000 residents in the southwestern province of Sichuan, organized by disease control officials, found 63% had tested positive for Covid and estimated infections peaked on Friday.

Officials have reported just six deaths from the virus since Beijing lifted most of its restrictions earlier this month.

But crematorium workers interviewed by AFP reported an unusually high influx of bodies, while hospitals said they were counting multiple deaths each day as emergency wards were overwhelmed.

A notice posted online on Sunday said the main funeral service center in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou postponed all ceremonies until Jan. 10 to focus on cremations due to “heavy workload”.

China’s censors and mouthpieces have been working overtime to tout the decision to lift strict travel restrictions, quarantines and fast-track lockdowns as a victory despite the surge in cases.

(Aside from the title, this story is unedited by NDTV staff and published via a syndicated feed.)

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