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Major Changes In China’s Covid Policy Soon, Says Former Govt Expert

Major Changes In China’s Covid Policy Soon, Says Former Govt Expert
A former Chinese disease control official said, in a conference held by Citi on Friday, that China will make significant changes to its "dynamic-zero" COVID-19 policy in the upcoming months, according to a recording of the session as reported by the media.
Separately, according to three sources with knowledge of the situation, China may soon reduce the length of time that visitors must spend in quarantine.
The conditions for China opening up were "accumulating," according to Zeng Guang, a former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention who has continued to speak out about China's fight against COVID. Zeng cited new vaccines and advancements made in the country's antiviral drug research as examples.
When asked by Citi's chief China economist Yu Xiangrong if China would become more open following its annual parliamentary session, which typically begins in early March, he responded that many new policies would be implemented in the following five to six months without citing the source of that information.
"The situation is changing now and China's 'dynamic zero' will also undergo major changes. Substantive changes will happen soon," he said, according to the recording of the session, which was titled "China's Exit Strategy from Zero-COVID".
Citi chose not to respond to Zeng's comments. Zeng and Yu did not answer inquiries for comments right away.
Zeng's comments strengthen recent investor hopes that China will relax some of the stringent regulations that have made it a global outlier and severely harmed the second-largest economy in the world.
Public health professionals have cautioned that changing China's strict COVID regime would require a clear timeline and strategy for booster shots in a country of 1.4 billion people with little natural immunity. Many people think China won't start to loosen up significantly until after the March parliamentary session.
Despite reports of rising infections and widespread COVID-related disruptions in China, this week's optimism persists despite events like Friday's postponement of the Guangzhou auto show that was originally scheduled for later this month.
According to a notice that stated representatives from the National Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention would attend, Chinese health authorities will hold a press conference on COVID-19 prevention at 3 p.m. (0700 GMT) on Saturday. There were no additional details available right away.
Nevertheless, China has continued to refine its COVID strategy and may soon reduce the 10-day COVID-19 quarantine period for incoming travelers to seven or eight days, according to reports citing sources with knowledge of the situation.
According to one of the sources, the new rule would require new arrivals to spend five days in a quarantine facility and an additional two to three days at home, as opposed to the current requirement of seven days in a facility, usually a hotel, and an additional three days under home monitoring.
A faxed request for comment received no immediate response from China's National Health Commission.
Such an action would be in line with China's June decision to reduce quarantine periods for incoming travelers by 50%.
Additionally on Friday, Bloomberg News reported that China was preparing to do away with a system that penalizes airlines for bringing COVID-positive travelers into the nation. Citing sources with knowledge of the situation, Bloomberg News claimed that this move was evidence that the government was looking for ways to lessen the impact of its COVID policies.
According to aviation data provider Variflight, Chinese airlines operated 145 international flights per day on average in October, an increase of 21.9% from September. According to information from the sector's two main information providers, CAPA and OAG, international capacity to and from China is still only at 7.3% of 2019 levels.
Authorities announced 3,871 new locally transmitted infections on Friday, the highest number in China since early May but still a small number by international standards.
When the virus began to spread from the Chinese city of Wuhan in the center of the country to other parts of China in 2020, Zeng was a key member of a top team at the National Health Commission of China.
He has previously cautioned against using overly aggressive tactics to combat COVID that run the risk of wearing out people, and in March he stated that China would seek a path toward "flexible and controllable opening up."
China has steadfastly adhered to a zero-tolerance policy that responds to even a single case with lockdowns and mass testing, while the majority of the rest of the world has largely abandoned virus curbs. These actions have disrupted the economy and are irking the public more and more.
Markets soared this week on expectations that China would soften its stance following rumors that it was preparing to lift strict COVID curbs in March of next year, based on an unverified note that went viral on social media.
At the time, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry claimed to be unaware of the circumstance. The country's National Health Commission stated on Wednesday that zero-COVID should be adhered to rigidly.
After imposing a variety of temporary lockdowns and restrictions in response to the dozens of new cases that were reported over the past week, Wuhan is once more making headlines in China regarding COVID.
On Friday, videos of the disorderly protests that took place inside a compound in Wuhan's Hanyang district on Thursday night were circulated on social media.
Crowds can be heard shouting, "Give us freedom, give us freedom!" as they smash COVID disaster relief tents and demand an end to the lockdown.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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