China has announced that quarantine requirements for travelers arriving in the country will end on 8 January. The measures are the latest in a series of restrictions set to be lifted if China abandons its zero Covid policy. Covid-related infections are exploding in China, and health workers say they are struggling to cope. In his first comments on the changes, President Xi Jinping urged officials to do “what is practicable” to save lives.
State media said the country was facing a new situation that required a more focused response. China has stopped publishing Covid statistics, but thousands are believed to be dying every day. From March 2020, all passengers arriving in China will be subject to mandatory centralized quarantine. However, the duration has been gradually reduced from his initial three weeks to just five days. Under the new rules, Covid will be downgraded from a Class A infectious disease to a Class B, and quarantine will no longer be enforced. Analysts say that China’s pivot in dealing with the pandemic has put Xi in an awkward position.
He was a driving force behind the zero Covid policy, which has been accused of overly restricting people’s lives and damaging the economy. But having given up on it, he must take responsibility for the huge wave of infections and hospitalizations, mainly among the elderly. Public outrage over the president’s handling of the pandemic is one of his most vulnerable areas.