Dec 7, 2022 - World

China eases COVID precautions after protests

Customers enter a digital mall in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia Autonomous region, China, December 7, 2022.

Customers enter a mall in Hohhot, China, on Dec. 7. Photo: CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images

China's government said Wednesday it is easing some of its key COVID-19 rules in a significant pivot for the country's pandemic strategy after nationwide protests.

The big picture: China — with its "zero COVID" policy — has implemented some of the world's strictest prevention measures throughout the pandemic. Authorities said they would roll back many of the policy's testing and quarantine requirements.

  • The announcement by China's National Health Commission comes after the largest protests since Tiananmen in 1989 spread across the country last month in response to pandemic policies.

Driving the news: Under the new guidelines, the requirements for lockdowns will apply to targeted areas, such as in buildings, units, floors and households, rather than entire residential areas, communities and streets.

  • The new rules also allow individuals with mild cases to isolate at home, rather than in state quarantine centers. They also drop testing requirements for people traveling domestically.
  • The health commission also urged local officials to focus on improving the vaccination rates of elderly people.
  • Officials must take "strict and detailed prevention and control measures," while minimizing the "impact of the epidemic on economic and social development," the National Health Commission said in its guidelines.

State of play: China relaxed some COVID measures in the immediate aftermath of protests last month and some major cities said they would no longer require a negative COVID test for residents to ride on public transportation.

  • The country reported a record number of COVID cases at the end of November, prompting lockdowns and mass testing — and fueling public unrest.

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