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New COVID-19 measures released

By WANG XIAOYU | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-11-12 07:29
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An Airbus A350-900 arrives at the Baoan International Airport in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, Jan 6, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

China will reduce the COVID-19 quarantine period for incoming travelers and close contacts from 10 days to eight, cancel circuit breakers for inbound flights and no longer trace secondary close contacts of confirmed cases, authorities said on Friday.

Categories of COVID-risk areas will also be adjusted to two — high and low — from the previous categories of high, medium and low, according to a notice released by the State Council's Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism that lays out 20 measures aimed at upgrading disease control measures.

The shift comes after a key meeting of the Communist Party of China on Thursday reiterated the country's unswerving adherence to a dynamic COVID-19 policy, while stressing optimization of disease control measures based on the latest epidemic situation and patterns of viral mutations.

According to the notice, all passengers arriving from overseas will undergo five days of centralized quarantine plus three days of home — or hotel-based isolation, compared with the current protocol of seven days of centralized isolation plus three days of self-isolation. It also stipulates that inbound travelers should not be placed into isolation again after finishing required quarantine periods at their first points of entry.

The circuit-breaker mechanism, which bans flight routes if inbound international flights carry COVID-19 cases, will be canceled. Inbound travelers will only need to provide one, rather than two, negative nucleic acid testing results taken 48 hours before boarding.

"For important businesspeople and sports groups arriving in China from overseas, they will be transferred to a quarantine-free closed-loop bubble via designated vehicles to conduct activities without leaving the bubble area," it said.

Meanwhile, quarantine periods for close contacts of confirmed infections have also been reduced from 10 to eight days, while secondary close contacts will no longer be traced.

The notice said that modifying categories of COVID-risk areas is aimed at minimizing the number of people facing restrictions on movement.

High-risk areas, it said, will cover residences of infected cases and places where they frequently visit. The designation of high-risk areas should be limited to a certain building unit and should not be expanded recklessly.

If no new cases are detected for five consecutive days, the high-risk label along with control measures should be lifted promptly.

While blind rollout of mass testing is forbidden, local authorities are required to test cross-provincial travelers upon arrival to detect potential infections promptly. "Prolonged and expanded battle lines against the virus should be avoided, and we must not take a wait-and-see or arbitrary attitude," it said.

The notice also requires ramping up stockpiles of COVID-19 drugs and medical equipment, preparing more hospital and intensive care unit beds, bolstering booster vaccination rates — especially among the elderly — and accelerating research of broad-spectrum and multivalent vaccines.

Wang Liping, a researcher at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Friday that given China's huge population and vulnerable groups, as well as insufficient and uneven medical resources, authorities have been highly cautious in adjusting disease control policies and each step has been discussed extensively and even piloted beforehand.

"The optimization of virus control policies does not signal relaxation, but aims for more scientific and precise approaches to fend off the epidemic while minimizing the impact on the economy and livelihoods," Wang said.

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