Chinese citizens rejoiced on Wednesday after Beijing scrapped its most restrictive COVID-19 testing and quarantine rules, Reuters reported, citing social media posts.
Among the changes announced Wednesday, city officials will no longer have the power to shut down parts of the city, most testing requirements will be rescinded and patients with mild symptoms will be allowed to isolate at home, according to The Wall Street Journal. The sweeping roll-back of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Zero-Covid policy is the most extensive yet since thousands of Chinese demonstrated against the lockdowns and shouted for Xi to step down.
“It’s time for our lives to return to normal, and for China to return to the world,” wrote one user on Chinese social media platform Weibo, according to Reuters. (RELATED: Nearly Half Of Americans Say Biden Should Support China’s Protesters, Condemn CCP’s ‘Authoritarian Regime’: POLL)
The government has not formally tied a loosening in pandemic restrictions to protests of late November, according to the WSJ. However, the State Council rolled out Wedesday’s rules in response to the Chinese people’s “strong reaction” to the government’s failure to implement earlier changes aimed at removing excess hardship of the Zero-Covid policy, Li Bin, the deputy director of China’s National Health Commission, said.
“We’re going to be free,” another social media user said, according to Reuters.
“Daylight is here,” echoed a third.
Chinese citizens have endured one of the world’s harshest and longest-lasting lockdown regimes, implemented after the novel coronavirus spread from the city of Wuhan in 2019, according to Reuters.
Previously, municipal leaders could shut down entire cities to address the emergence of just a few COVID-19 cases, and individuals not under lockdowns had to undergo constant testing when moving around the city or province. Some who tested positive for the virus were shipped to mass isolation facilities.
Under the new rules, COVID-19 patients exhibiting no or mild symptoms will be allowed to quarantine at home, the WSJ reported. In addition, city officials cannot designate whole districts as “high risk” zones, shuttering businesses and barring citizens from conducting activities of daily life, but individual buildings where infections are found will continue to be placed under lockdown.
Testing requirements to cross provincial borders and enter most premises will be removed, according to the WSJ.
The ruling also forbids blocking emergency exits in effort to contain the virus, the WSJ reported, a possible nod to the fire at an apartment complex in Urumqi, Xinjiang province, that killed 10 and was seen as the catalyst for the protests. Witnesses alleged that barriers set up to prevent infected people from spreading the virus impeded their escape from the burning building and hampered firefighters’ efforts to reach the flames.
Mi Feng, a spokesperson for China’s National Health Commission, warned citizens to expect a “gradual” return to pre-pandemic life, Reuters reported. However, health officials have begun to emphasize “dynamic optimisation” of anti-COVID-19 rules rather than a “dynamic zero-COVID clearing” policy.
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