BEIJING (AP) – Travelers arriving in China will spend less time in quarantine under changes to anti-virus controls announced Friday to reduce disruption to the economy and society.
The announcement came as an increase in COVID-19 cases prompted Beijing to close parks and impose other restrictions. The country reported 10,729 new cases, and more than 5 million people were confined to their homes in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou and the western megacity of Chongqing.
With most of Beijing’s 21 million people undergoing daily tests, 118 new cases were recorded in the sprawling city. Many city schools switched to online classes, hospitals limited services and some shops and restaurants closed as their staff were taken into quarantine. Videos on social media show people in various areas protesting or fighting with police and health workers.
“It has become normal, like eating and sleeping,” said food service worker Yang Zheng, 39.
The demand to test every 24 to 48 hours is “annoying,” said Ying Yiyang, who works in marketing.
“My life will definitely not be compared to three years ago,” Ying said.
Family travel out of Beijing could be difficult if a mandatory smartphone app that tracks a user’s virus test status does not show a green code allowing travel back to the Chinese capital, Ying said.
“I just live in Beijing,” Ying said.
Many villages on the outskirts of the capital are home to blue-collar workers whose labor keeps the city running, and many live in dormitory communities. Taxi and ride-sharing drivers said they were avoiding the area to avoid being placed in self-quarantine.
Lockdowns in Guangzhou and elsewhere ended on Sunday, but authorities have repeatedly extended such restrictions without explanation. China’s leaders have pledged on Thursday to respond to public frustration over the “zero-COVID” strategy which has locked millions into their homes and severely disrupted the economy.
Arriving passengers will only be quarantined for five days – instead of the previous seven – at a designated location, followed by three days of isolation at their place of residence, according to a notice from the State Council, China’s Cabinet.
It was not immediately clear when or where the rule would apply and whether it would apply to foreigners and Chinese citizens alike.
Relaxed standards will also apply to foreign businessmen and athletes, in what appears to be a gradual move towards normalisation.
Airlines will no longer be threatened with a two-week suspension of flights if five or more passengers test positive, the regulation says, potentially providing for the expansion of seats on flights that have reduced their number and increased prices since the ban came into effect. 2020.
Those flying to China only need to show a negative test for the virus within 48 hours of travel, the rules say. In the past, two tests within that time frame were required.
Macau will also reduce its hotel quarantine period from seven days to five days, followed by three days of self-isolation, for arrivals from Hong Kong, Taiwan and overseas from Saturday, authorities there said.
“Zero-COVID” keeps China’s infection rate relatively low but weighs heavily on the economy and disrupts lives by closing schools, factories and shops, or shutting down neighborhoods without warning. With the recent surge in cases, a number of areas are shutting down businesses and forcing people to walk. To enter office buildings, shopping malls and other public places, people are required to show a negative result of a virus test that is often done once a day.
With economic growth weakening again after rebounding to 3.9% over the previous year in the three months ending in September, forecasters are expecting bolder steps towards the reopening of the country, whose borders remain closed in general.
Business group policies prevent foreign executives from visiting, which prompts companies to shift investment plans to other countries. Visits from US officials and lawmakers tasked with maintaining vital trade ties amid tensions over tariffs, Taiwan and human rights have been in virtual limbo.
Last week, access to the central part of the city of Zhengzhou, home to the world’s largest iPhone factory, was suspended after residents tested positive for the virus. Thousands of workers jumped fences and climbed along highways to escape the factory run by Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group. Apple Inc. then warned that customers will have to wait longer for the delivery of their new iPhone 14 models.
China confirmed Friday that President and ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping will make a rare trip abroad next weekbut has given little indication of back off to the policy of the party is closely associated with social stability and the avowed superiority of his policy.