China slashes quarantine time for international arrivals by two days, eases restrictions on international flights

China today announced major calibration to its strict Zero-Covid measures for international travellers, reducing quarantine time on arrival from seven days down to five, followed by three days of isolation at home. State media reported that more international flights will also be starting up and the “circuit break” mechanism will also end, which often resulted in the number of international flights getting canceled on detection of COVID positive cases on board upon arrival at any Chinese airport. The announcement comes a day after President Xi Jinping presided over a meeting of China’s top decision-making body which called for an optimized COVID response, precise measures while reaffirming the Zero-COVID policy.

It is not yet clear when the new measures will come into effect as this move is the biggest pullback so far in China’s Zero COVID policy and raised hopes for reopening. Recent rumours of an end to mainland China’s dynamic zero-Covid policy were enough to move markets until they were quashed – showing the kind of strain the policy is under which has attracted huge international criticism, isolated the world’s second-largest economy and raised public anger.

In another relief, international travellers will now be allowed to enter the country after showing just one negative PCR test within the 48 hours before boarding. The threshold for a positive PCR test will also be dropped, from 40 to 35 according to reports.

In another easing, close contacts of Covid infections within China would need to go to centralized quarantine for five days instead of the previous seven. However, the three days of home health monitoring which previously applied will be changed to quarantine. In contact tracing, China said it will no longer track people beyond close contacts of Covid infections. Previously, people who were contacts of those close contacts were also tracked and might have to face additional Covid restrictions.

Meanwhile, daily new COVID cases in China are on continuous rise. China on Friday reported 10535 new locally transmitted cases, the highest since April 29, when the country’s commercial hub, Shanghai, was battling its most serious outbreak. Covid outbreak worsens in southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, the capital of China’s export-heavy Guangdong province as it reported 2824 new local cases on Friday, the fourth day in which infections exceeded 2000. Schools in eight of 11 districts in the city of Guangzhou moved classes online for most students as of Thursday. Officials have launched mass testing and urged the residents to work from home. There are fears of a Shanghai-type city-wide lockdown.

In the capital Beijing, the biennial Beijing auto show – China’s biggest car show has been cancelled this year due to surge in cases. At present, due to the quagmire of zero COVID rules, officials and other people traveling to and from Beijing are having their Beijing health kit get conked up making them unable to return to the city.

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