China's decisions to cut many long-standing COVID-19 restrictions in November and downgrade the management of the virus from Jan 8 were consistent with its previous actions in refining COVID-19 response measures to handle emerging challenges, according to experts.
On Nov 11, the State Council's Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism, the country's COVID-19 control task force, published 20 measures on optimizing epidemic control.
The regulatory changes — including abandoning the circuit breaker mechanism for inbound flights and further shortening the time that international arrivals had to spend at isolation hotels — kick-started a cascade of changes. Before the end of the year, China had stopped tracing COVID-19 cases and allowed patients to isolate at home.
Testing requirements were cut for everyday scenarios, such as taking the subway, dining at restaurants and traveling out of town. Fitness clubs, karaoke bars and other entertainment venues were allowed to resume business. From Jan 8, inbound travelers will no longer have to undergo quarantine or take a nucleic acid test upon arrival.
China's downgrading management of COVID-19 from Class A to Class B takes effect from Sunday after the country made several adjustments to its anti-virus policies in 2022.
China is getting back to its pre-epidemic hustle and bustle, with production lines humming and machines running, restaurants and shopping malls filled with people, and travel rushes on the road and at subway stations the norm again.
More than 50 million people traveled in China during the New Year holiday. On Jan. 1, 10,640 cinemas opened for business nationwide, a new high in nearly 10 months.
As China's 40-day-long Spring Festival travel rush kicked off Saturday, people are swarming train stations, airports, and coach terminals across the country for family reunions.
The number of passenger trips during this period is expected to surge 99.5 percent year on year to nearly 2.1 billion, resuming 70.3 percent of that in the same period in 2019, data from the Ministry of Transport shows.
China released its 10th edition of COVID-19 control protocol on Jan. 7 , Saturday, highlighting vaccination and personal protection.
Release Notification by the State Council joint COVID-19 prevention and control mechanism team, the protocol encourages the public, especially the elderly, to take the initiative to get fully vaccinated and take booster shots.
"For high-risk population, a second booster dose was recommended six months after the first dose of a booster is completed," says the protocol.
It also stresses good hygiene habits such as washing hands frequently and wearing masks to strengthen personal protection.
Mass nucleic acid testing will no longer be carried out, but antigen or nucleic acid testing will be conducted for relevant people seeking medical treatment and inpatients at hospitals, staff or care recipients at aged care facilities and social welfare institutions, and people at high risk of serious illness in communities, says the protocol.
Quarantine measures against people with a COVID-19 infection will be dropped, and their close contacts will no longer be identified, says the protocol, adding that the designating of high-risk and low-risk areas will be stopped.
It also proposes that temporary prevention and control measures should be taken timely and in accordance with the law to reduce large gatherings as well as the flow of people, to alleviate the impact of the sudden increase of infected people on social functioning and medical resources.