Zero-Covid: China eases strict restriction amid protests

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In a dramatic change to a strategy that confined millions of people to their homes and sparked protests and demands for President Xi Jinping to resign, China on Wednesday eased down rules isolating people with COVID-19 and dropped virus test requirements for some public places.

The move is a follow up to the earlier easing that raises hope that the communist government would scrap its “zero COVID” strategy which is disrupting manufacturing and global trade.

China is the last major country still trying to stamp out transmission of the virus while many nations switch to trying to live with it.

Based on this development, the National Health Commission announced that people with mild cases will be allowed for the first time to isolate at home instead of going to sometimes overcrowded or unsanitary quarantine centers. That addresses a major irritation that helped to drive protests that erupted Nov. 25 in Shanghai and other cities.

Public facilities except for “special places,” such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes, will no longer require visitors to produce a “health code” on a smartphone app that tracks their virus tests and whether they have been to areas deemed at high risk of infection.

Local officials must “take strict and detailed measures to protect people’s life, safety and health” but at the same time “minimize the impact of the epidemic on economic and social development,” the statement said.

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China’s restrictions have helped to keep case numbers low, but that means few people have developed natural immunity, a factor that might set back reopening plans if cases surge and authorities feel compelled to re-impose restrictions.

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